Monday, 2 September 2013

Bobby - 999 Letsby Avenue

Policeman, British, England, Law enforcement, Peeler
The traditional bobby still exists
Photo by Jorge Ryan


Noun. Colloquial. Bobby & bobby. Mid-19th century.
[Pet-form of male forename Robert, after Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850),
who founded the Irish constabulary and introduced the new Police Act in Britain in 1828. Compare with PEELER noun.]

A (British) policeman.

The British bobby is something of a national treasure in Britain. Sir Robert Peel, considered by many to be the father of modern policing, introduced wide-ranging criminal and prison reforms during his time as Home Secretary in the 1820s and set up the Metropolitan Police in London. Its constables became known as bobbies and peelers, and while peeler has dropped out of the modern vernacular, the more affectionate bobby, with its connotations of a local, friendly and approachable servant of the public, retains its place in both the language and the ideal of a traditional, conscientious policeman.

Do please comment below.


  1. I'd be interested to hear what impression your international readers have of the British Police. 'Bobby' certainly invokes a lot of the right stuff for me, but I was born in London, and was never caught scrumping.


    1. It's not easy to get caught scrumping in The Smoke, nowadays!

      British policemen have other nicknames, too, of course, some of them unfriendly and some of them unprintable. Personally, though, I've always found them helpful and charming.

      I've never got as big a laugh from a Bobby as I once got from a pair of tooled-up Belgian policemen, though, when I explained to them that the reason my husband was taking photographs (I mean, how were we to know we were in a Defence Establishment?) was that he had a fondness the most extreme for butterflies.

      It was as if, being English, they were expecting us to be mad...

    2. Y'all are foreigners, so by definition completely cuckoo. And if you're in Brussels, you're even cuckoo if you're a Belgian citizen. Brussels... that's a whole different country. Tiny little whole different country.

    3. I got shouted at by a Spanish policeman once. He was unhappy with me taking a photo of him, though he was standing unhelpfully right by a tourist attraction. I thought better than to try and argue with the notorious Spanish police in a second language.

      As for scrumping, I think that warrants a clip around the ear from a traditional bobby, doesn't it?

  2. "Bobby" to me sounds like the gentle police officer who travels through a rural town on his bike and knows everyone by their first and last names. His highlight of the year is when little Jimmy steals a handful of gummybears from the local candy shop. Tsktsk Jimmy, you deserve a scolding!

    1. That's exactly the image of a bobby, Bibi. And a jolly pleasing image it is too.

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