Explain being called "boss."

That’s a pretty good observation.

I’ve worked in sales for decades. “Thank you Sir” is kinda expected once during the conversation with a customer.

BUT I will agree that when someone says “Sir” your fries are ready. I’m thinking inwardly that I’m an old bastard. Christ. I keep telling colleagues that “dude” or “bro” works. I know they are trying to be polite, but calling me “sir” just doesn’t feel right.

Speaking for myself, yes. I expect commercial transactions to be emotionally neutral – I’m paying for something, I get it, I say “thank you” as cheerfully as I can muster, and I expect that to be the end of it. I’m so unused to even implied snark that I have to wonder if it was something I did or said or looked like. Maybe that’s just another way that life is easier for men in general, that we don’t expect comments in commerce to be personal. At least I don’t.

In addition to “boss”, I’m also addressed as “chief” on occasion. The guy who takes my order at a local taqueria used to call me “chief” until I told him I preferred “jefe”. I assume he was either chastised or offended by my ill considered remark and stoped calling me anything. I should have just let it go.

:confused: You seem to be suggesting that calling him “boss” is treating him “with implied respect”, but AFAICT that’s exactly what the OP is very unsure about.

[quote=“Akaj, post:1, topic:854873”]

Is this …[LIST]
[li]Just a thing young men do these days, maybe more popular with POC than whites – a slangy, millennial way of saying “sir”?[/li][/QUOTE]

In my very limited experience of having one such person address me as boss, I perceived it this way. If the tone of voice doesn’t indicate otherwise, I wouldn’t be looking for a negative aspect to it.

I think it’s a mix of your second and third bullets, call it defiant subservience.

I’ve heard “boss” here in my part of London, and usually (though not exclusively) from youngsters from the local (predominantly Bangladeshi heritage) ethnic minority.

A couple of generations ago, you might have heard “squire”, though nowadays it would sound distinctly like a mickey-take; I think “guvnor” or “guv” is pretty rare now, but you will hear “chief” from time to time.

However, I don’t think any of them is intended to suggest any serious deference.

And then again, in the West Country it’s not unknown for a police officer, even while issuing a ticket, to call someone “my lover”.


Apparently, yes.

“… just another way that life is easier for men in general …”

This is probably true, and (typically enough) something I hadn’t reflected on. It does occur to me, though, that if a female service associate greets me with anything other than a completely neutral deadpan, I probably perceive it as flirtacious. (I know.) So if I’m solipsistic enough to think the female barrista wants me, it only follows that I suspect the male barrista who calls me “boss” has an axe to grind.

The West Country sounds a lot more… sensual than I imagined.

I tend to consider “sir” slightly confrontational - but then, I only use it myself when prefaced with “excuse me”, as in “Excuse me, SIR.” Most service people here, if they bother to address me with anything at all, use “achi” (“brother”) or “haver” (“friend” or “pal”), even if they’re half my age. I have no problem with that.

New Jersey resident here.

I get called “boss” once in a very rare while by guys behind the counter at stores and fast food restaurants.

To me, it has always been a friendly alternate to “hey man” spoken by a stoner. I usually hear it from an easy going fellow that I either know, or just before having a nice chat about how the day has been going.

There seems to be the right kind of person who can use this word successfully–a friend of mine uses it in his natural language, if we go to a sub joint together, he’ll say “Hey, boss, I’d like a giant Italian sub with…” to the guy behind the counter, and it sounds absolutely natural. If I say it, it’s an affectation.

I always looked it at being pretty similar to “Chief” or “Hoss” or whatever other pseudo-honorific people use in everyday conversation.

What makes me uncomfortable as hell is when middle aged or older people of color start talking to me and saying “Yes sir”, “No sir”, etc… as if they were guilty 14 year olds or something.

I, *obviously *non-white middle-aged foreign man, got called “boss” by waitstaff in Houston. All younger than me I’d say, but not kids. Mid 20s to 30s. Barmen, waiters and busboys. Not just black guys, also a couple white and non-white Hispanic guys.

This was at Red Robin, Lupe Tortilla and Saltgrass Steakhouse. (Please don’t tell me if any of those are dodgy, I enjoyed their food :))

As a South African, it made me a *tiny *bit uncomfortable the first time, because it’s cognate with the Afrikaans word baas, which has unsavoury connotations.

But there was none of the cringe or deference I’d associate with the local word, or any Steppin’ Fetchit subservience. It felt much more like just a colloquialism, a friendly signifier. Locally, I might get called “Captain” under the same circumstances.

I may just not have gotten the local social dynamics, though, I’m aware.

Also, I may have taken Dope threads about tipping too much to heart, and been quite generous, and I went to all of those restaurants more than once each…

My son is a corrections officer in a prison in Florida. Older black men who are lifers or long-termers call him (a 26 year old white guy) “boss”. The better he has gotten to know them the less they call him “boss”.

It means whatever the speaker wants it to mean. It may be an indication of respect, or camaraderie. It may indicate the willingness to serve. It may be sarcasm or contempt. Unless said with a sneer I take it as friendly and use it that way when appropriate.

I would, in general, interpret it as being respectful but informal, which is a perfectly appropriate way for someone like a car mechanic to behave. I mean, of course it could be condescending or sarcastic, depending on the tone of voice, body language, etc., but then, that’s true of absolutely anything anyone could say.

“Boss” is commonly used by South Asians as a term of address for a customer.

To add to this, I generally interpret it as neutral, in their minds.

It’s not meant at you personally, just their way of identifying the generic white male authority role customer. A way of saying “I am not you. You are not me.” Is it a bit insensitive? Probably. But in my position of privilege I will let them have this one, if it makes them feel better - which ultimately makes me feel better.

Man, ain’t social communications power dynamics fun? :smiley:

Don’t know anything about Red Robin, but Lupe Tortilla and Saltgrass Steakhouse are both Houston-originated chains, and are on the upper end of chain food, IMO.

Very interesting. I love this place.