Boss

5 days in Singapore is a tad too long without your family. I am reading my old entries when I was still using msn spaces before moving to blogspot. Just in case, you are interested, I started writing entries here in December 2005 before moving to blogspot in March 2006. It was a different kind of entry but I thought I had more fun blogging. I picked up one entry for you to enjoy:-

My 5 year old son always tells me, whenever my official car arrives, 'kereta boss datang'. Now that I am holding this position, for whatever reason, he says I am now a boss and that's why I have an official car. We would have conversations that goes like 'masa babah balum boss ...' According to my son, that means even when I was the head honcho of the retirement agency looking after $1 billion fund means I was still not a 'boss'. His definition of 'boss' apparently refers to higher value position. Interestingly, the other day, one of my institution's officers also refer to me as 'boss', I smiled, thinking about my son.

That actually sets me thinking. We instinctively know that a boss is someone you report to like your immediate manager, your supervisor, your overseer. Its meaning is clear enough, you know a boss is someone who directs someone junior than he is. It sounded so colloquial, yet is almost universal in its usage that you can go anywhere in the world and instantly know when someone is refered to as 'boss' means that person is someone to be respected (or feared).What is the origin of the word 'boss'?

According to experts, the word most likely originate from the Dutch word 'baas' meaning Master. The older meaning of that Dutch word was apparently 'uncle', and it was also possibly derived from the German word 'base' meaning 'female cousin' (again from another Old High German word 'basa' meaning 'aunt'). 'Boss' is first recorded in English in 1635 in New England, when a John Winthrop wrote in his journal during an English group arrival in Massachusetts Bay: "Here arrived a small Norsey bark, of twenty-five tons, sent by the Lords Say, etc., with one Gardiner, an expert engineer or work base, and provisions of all sorts, to begin a fort at the mouth of Connecticut." That base was the Dutch word we now know as boss. Since then, 'boss' grew in popularity over the years, gradually taking the place of master as that latter word became associated with slavery. 'Boss' was seen as plain and emphatic, making it a useful informal substitute for words like employer, supervisor, and foreman. 'Boss' became a respectful way of addressing a person to acknowledge that person's leadership or authority.

In Brunei, I remember a time when, parents are referred to as bosses when referring to them in the third person, 'boss laki' for the father and 'boss bini' for the mother. I am not sure whether this colloquial usage is still in use nowadays. But whatever it is, be it in Brunei or elsewhere, when someone is referred to as 'boss', we know what he means, even my 5 year old knows that.

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