Fixin’ To Tell You Where “Fixin’ To” Comes From
In my nomadic radio career, my family and I have had the pleasure of living in such disparate states as Louisiana, Kansas, Alabama, Minnesota, and our native Texas. (Though, having lived in East, West, North, and South Texas, I can tell you that’s like four states in one.) What you soon learn about the different parts of our great country is that people are people wherever you go. Some are good, some aren’t.
And the South does not have a corner on rednecks. They’re just called by other names like rubes, hicks, or yokels.
There is one difference that is glaringly obvious and that is language. And I’m not talking about the difference between, English, Spanish or French; I’m talking about regional accents, colloquialisms, and contractions.
In Texas there’s a drawl wherever you go. The difference is in degrees. From Dallas west, it’s what I call the Slight West Texas Drawl. From College Station east all the way through the Florida Panhandle is the Redneck Riviera and the drawl gets thicker the farther east you go.
Kansans are known for having a very flat accent with no Southern nasal twang or northern Scandanavian influence. But they do have this weird way of pronouncing long A’s as short E’s. For example, they’ll say “I’m putting my house up for sell” or “Let me put this letter in the mell.”
For contractions, the most obvious is the use of “ya’ll” in the South. That’s just a contraction of “you all”. Or in the Deep South it could be “Jeet yet?”, which is a contraction of “Did you eat yet?”
In Minnesota, the natives have a phrase that used to bug the crap out of my wife. Instead of saying, “Would you like to go with me?”, they say “Wanna go with?” And when you tell them of the exciting experience you had over the weekend they’ll say, “Oh, didja, now? Holey buckets!” If someone is speaking ill of another and you tell them, “Don’t be ugly”, they’ll answer “What does my appearance have to do with it?”
But the one colloquialism that stands out above all others is Southerners’ use of the phrase “fixin’ to”. It doesn’t occur north of the Mason-Dixon line in the east; west of Texas in the Southwest, or north of Oklahoma in the Midwest. If you say that anywhere else, no matter what accent you may have, they instantly know you’re from the South and probably from Texas or Louisiana. For the record I did a little research and the phrase derives its meaning from a definition that arose in the 14th century. This meaning of “fix” is “to set (one’s eyes or mind) on something.” Which is basically what we mean when we say it now, which is “I’m focusing on accomplishing this thing that I’m about to do.”