This- for a lot of people- is the polite version of “the jerk with the corner office and PA”. It can also be used instead of the word “manager”. While there are myths suggesting origins from a certain Mr. Boss, the real derivation is from the Dutch word ‘baas’ (look familiar to any of you souff effrikuns reading this?), meaning master, which was adopted into the US language from Dutch settlers in the 17th century. The word also appeared early in South African English from Afrikaans- more proof of Dutch origins. Its Afrikaans version had some rather unpleasant connotations during South Africa’s apartheid era, since people of colour were expected to refer to their superiors (which in those days was anyone white) as “baas”, “meneer” (afrikaans for “sir”) or “miesies” (afrikaans for mistress). I think it was used to infer inferiority on the user. I very much doubt that it was even a verbal rule never mind a written one, but very few people of colour were invited to refer to their bosses as “Mr. So-and-so” or “Mrs. Such-and-such”, while white people were properly introduced and often invited to use their boss’s first name. What happens now (admittedly- only very occasionally), is that people who were previously disadvantaged and poorly educated will now use derogatory terms when referring to themselves in order to try and ingratiate themselves with someone they are talking to. There are probably people who think this is “cute” but I cannot stand it! I can’t understand why- when disadvantaged (I am just so PC today) South Africans fought for as long and as hard as they did for rights and recognition- they would still use those horrible terms in any way?! Oh how this world has changed.
And now- on a lighter note- which Dutch origins do you think are being referred to here? Maybe the Dutch origins of Afrikaans; the Dutch origins of English perhaps; or the Dutch origins of whichever people come up with “boss”? Your guess is as good as mine!