Last Updated Oct 17, 2007 12:09 AM EDT
Boss is Dutch in origin and is a bastardization of the Dutch "base." Its use was a uniquely American way of avoiding the word "master," which had quickly become associated with slavery by the mid-19th century. Of course, bosses are far from slave drivers (though I know a few people who would love to argue that point), so the new Dutch word was a convenient moniker for the rising capitalistic equivalent of the corporate figurehead.
Urban workers were fond of using 'boss' primarily because they despised calling their superior 'master.' Ironically, all the effort was in vain. The meaning of the Dutch word, "base" is "master." And it all comes back full circle...
Boss image by Night Time Strife [cc, 2.0]