Sunday, April 06, 2008


In reading a pro's prose, a bit of writer's writing, I happened on this passage:

This Tudor Hampton Court, before Christopher Wren transformed it in the 1690s into a massive red-brick slab of power and grandeur, an attempt at an English Versailles, was a fairy palace, full of little towers and toy battlements, weathervanes that caught the light, as romantic and play-chivalric as as an illumination in a Book of Hours. Here and there, the Italian craftsmen imported by the cardinal and king had contributed a terracotta medallion or a frieze of satyrs. Plaster ceilings, in which large pendant bosses hung down over the heads of the churchmen, and whose panels were filled with papier mache roses and sculpted ostrich feathers, were painted light blue and gold. Braziers stood glowing in the rooms.

The excerpt is from Adam Nicolson's God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible. The book is an erudite, well-crafted, fascinating history of England in the early 1600s. Nicolson deftly shows how the Translators worked as a committee to create a singular work of the English language. He illustrates the politicking and intrigue behind that effort, under King James I of England (James VI of Scotland), the, um, boss of the project.

Back to that word "boss." I hadn't known that meaning used above: an ornamental protuberance, an architectural embellishment.

Are all bosses merely ornaments?

The Oxford English Dictionary cites these other senses for "boss":

-- a swelling on the body of a plant or animal
-- a bump or hunch on the back
-- a bulky animal
-- a fat woman
-- a knoll or mass of rock
-- an enlarged part of a shaft
-- a water conduit

Some word!

So, on Monday morning, when you say, or think, "Good morning, boss," choose your connotations carefully.

(In the Fifties, "That's boss" meant something was very cool.)

Carry on.

As you were.

Laugh. Or else.


Ralph said...

There is always the definition of 'boss' in the metal fabricating world as: A protuberant part (such as a surface area to be welded).

Not that my wheelchair gut is that protuberant...not too much, anyway.

Patti said...

I have a long-distance boss, which is quite OK by me.