Monday, July 11, 2011

Fixin' To

Most people think of the term fixing to (or, as it’s usually spoken, fixin’ tuh), meaning “just about to,” as a sub-standard expression common only among backwoods Texans and other unlettered types, such as hillbillies, rednecks, and crackers.  The phrase is generally used to express intent to complete an action in the near future: I’m fixing to watch “Gone With the Wind” or She’s fixing to go to Neiman-Marcus.
Actually, fixing to has a distinguished etymological history, dating at least to the 14th century, when fix meant “to set one’s eye or mind on something,” as in I am fixed on winning the fair Rowena’s hand in matrimony (or words to that effect).  Such usage stemmed from the Latin fixus, meaning “immovable, settled, or established.” It’s the past participle of figere, which simply means “to fasten.”
The meaning of “getting ready” or “preparing” is strictly American and can be traced to the 18th century. The Oxford English Dictionary has a citation from 1716: “He fixes for another expedition.”  In 1871 Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, “He was fixin’ out for the voyage.” 
By 1854 the phrase shifted pretty much to its current meaning, as in the O.E.D.’s citation of “Aunt Lizy is just fixing to go to church.” In 1907 the Springfield (Massachusetts) Weekly Republic proclaimed, “What a pretty night!  The moon is fixing to shine.” In 1910 Gertrude Atherton wrote, “I meet schoolgirls so painted up they look as they was fixin’ to be bad.”  A 1967 song by Country Joe and the Fish bemoaned, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die.”

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou is usually in a fix of some intricate and inexplicable nature, which he resolves through sublime flights of lyric poetry like the following.

            I’m fixing to fax further facts to the flacks
            For Fox flicks with their factional fiction,
            In a flexible fluxion of flax and of phlox
            As they flex all their fractional friction.

1 comment:

  1. The Bard's poem reminds me yet again why I always hated reading Dr. Seuss's "Fox in Socks" aloud to the children on whom I was sitting.