By ANNE DONNELL
Every time I leave Tennessee for some point not in a southern state, it’s a matter of time before I say,“fixing to…” Every time I say that, someone, not a southerner, laughs and asks, “Why did you say ‘fixing’? Are you going to repair something?” I’d quit saying “fixing,” but I’m so used to it I don’t notice it! Where did it come from, anyway? Thanks.
-A Traveling Guy
Prior to December 2001, Random House had a word source called “The Maven’s Word of the Day.” There the entry for August 1, 1996, yielded some firm information on a markedly Southern expression, used exactly as you, QP of T (Question Person of Today), say you do, and used so commonly it’s only noticed by that great, unwashed group, the non-Southerners.
Some less firm information was shoveled up from the online “Urban Dictionary” which states it’s the “dictionary you wrote. Define your world.” Well, that should warn any prudent person, but there’s a real dearth of information on our beloved expression.
I’m reproducing what I found in “Urban Dictionary.” First, you’ll note #3 features a heavy dose of that familiar stuff: Texas pride -- everything Texas is bigger and better, and Texans own whatever flies by, including “fixing to,” which, second, these self-styled Noah Websters pronounce peculiarly. With apologies to my cousins in Texas! Quote from “Urban Dictionary” -- three “definitions” offered. “ 1.when southerners are about to accomplish tasks. pronounced ‘fiddin ta’ We fiddin ta get blazed up in herrr … 2. going to or about to. Used only in the deep south or by people from the deep south. Also pronounced as ‘fittina.’ Hey y'all! I reckon I'm fixing to marry my cousin who's also my sister! [yes, poor taste] by Slack Jawed Yokel from Rkansas 3. Generally used only in the state of Texas, [emphasis added] ‘fixing to’ is the equivalent of ‘about to’ or ‘getting ready to.’ If used outside of Texas, likely the person using it is from Texas or has spent a great deal of time in Texas. [Emphasis added] Also, this person will likely be on the receiving end of, ‘You're... what?’ I'm fixing to watch the football game on TV. by anonymous”
I did find it used in a headline, used humorously to us because it’s outside of its “true” meaning and southern popularity, “Fixing to Stay: A National Survey on Housing and Home Modification,” which concluded that midlife and older Americans were repairing their homes to continue living in them. Well, we CAN and DO use fix to mean repair.
The Word Maven told us fix was used to mean “get ready, prepare” in early eighteenth-century America. There was a broader sense of the word that meant “to get in order, establish, settle definitely.” Our current use is a descendant of this. It’s always expressed in the progressive form (verb has ing ending ) and followed by an infinitive (to plus a verb). Fixing to has a sense of immediacy; Beth McCullough, who wrote this entry for “The Maven’s Word of the Day,” notes, “You couldn’t say, ‘I’m fixing to get married in five or ten years.’” She says the use of fixing to is spreading (no doubt some traveling Texans, but she neglected to mention that absurdity), but it is still one of the best known indicators of Southern speech. And I’m fixin’ to keep using it.
ONLINE DEPARTMENT (Thanks, JA) “A Lick and A Promise” (meaning a little done now with promise to finish later) Here is a list memorable old phrases: • 1. A bone to pick (someone who wants to discuss a disagreement) • 2. An axe to grind (Someone who has a hidden motive.) • 3.One bad apple spoils the whole barrel (one corrupt person can ruin all the others) • 4. At sea (lost or not understanding something) • 5. Bad egg (Someone not good) • 6. Barking at a knot (useless effort) • 7. Barking up the wrong tree (discussing the wrong issue with the wrong person) • 8. Bee in your bonnet (idea that won't go away) • 9. Been through the mill (had a rough time) • 10. Between hay and grass (not a child or an adult) • 11. Blinky (between sweet and sour as milk) • 12. Calaboose (a jail) • 13. Catawampus (something sitting crooked like furniture) • 14. Dicker (to barter or trade) • 15. Feather in your cap (to accomplish a goal) • 16. Hold your horses (Be patient!) • 17. Hoosegow (a jail) • 18. I reckon (I suppose) • 19. Jawing/Jawboning (talking or arguing) • 20. Kit and caboodle (the whole thing) • 21. Madder than a wet hen (really angry) • 22. Needs taken down a notch or two( a person who thinks too highly of himself and needs a lesson) • 23. No spring chicken (not young anymore) • 24. Persnickety (overly particular) • 25. Pert-near (short for pretty near) • 26. Pretty is as pretty does (actions more important than looks) • 27. Red up (clean the house) • 28. Scalawag (unprincipled person) • 29. Scarce as hen's teeth (difficult to obtain) • 30. Skedaddle (Get out quickly) • 31. Sparking (dating) • 32. Straight from the horse's mouth (information from the one concerned) • 33. Stringing around, gallivanting around, or piddling (Not doing anything of value) • 34. Sunday go to meetin' dress (best dress) • 35. We wash up real fine(look nice dressed up) • 36. Tie the knot (get married) • 37. Too many irons in the fire (involved in too much) • 38. Tuckered out (all worn out) • 39.Wearing your 'best bib and tucker' (dressed up) • 40. You ain't the only duck in the pond (It's not all about you)