English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Reading Look to the Lady, by Margery Allingham, I came across the apparent slang "catch a bosso," used by Lugg, the Cockney manservant, at the beginning of Chapter 6:

As soon as I caught a bosso of 'im and 'is 'arem going up that street, I come up to see what the 'ell you was up to---sir.

The meaning seems clear enough---Lugg caught a glimpse of "'im and 'is 'arem"---but I'm wondering about the etymology. Is this an instance of Cockney rhyming slang and, if so, what is the origin?

I should add that Look to the Lady is set in the late 1920s or early 1930s, so this slang might be localized in both time and place.

share|improve this question
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Green's Dictionary of Slang has boss, "a view, or sight, of", which he suggests is derived from boss-eye, a "squinting or injured eye, or person who has one".

This is said to be derived from boss, "to make a mess of, to spoil".

The sources quoted for this are all in the 1880's, with an example from 1926, which fits quite well with your book.

share|improve this answer

I have heard the expression 'bosso' usually to mean an idiot, a buffoon.

  1. bozo
    An incompetent person, especially in new companies. Bozos have a net negative effect on morale and profits, and everyone knows it. .

I first heard this specific meaning of "bozo" during a talk to business students by one of Yahoo's founders. .

Q: "What's the most important thing to do in order to grow your company from 10 employees to 100 or 1000?" .

A: "Get rid of the bozos. Seriously, fire them immediately."


share|improve this answer
You are right about bozo, but bosso is a different word. – Kit Z. Fox Sep 18 '12 at 0:14

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.