Posted by: episystechpubs | August 4, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Fixin’ to Write


After a lovely week meeting family in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina, I have a few language souvenirs for you from my vacation. Today’s topic seems quite timely, since a week or so before I left, someone asked me about the etymology of the term “fixin’ to” (meaning to get ready to or prepare to do something). For example, I’m fixin’ to eat me a bowl of grits.

While I didn’t have much luck with an etymology for this phrase, I found a very interesting article on Wikipedia about Southern American English. I have included some selections from the article on the shared features of old and new Southern American English (below).

Regions speaking Southern American English

Shared Features (from Wikipedia)

These grammatical features are characteristic of both older Southern American English and newer Southern American English.

· Use of done as an auxiliary verb between the subject and verb in sentences conveying the past tense.

I done told you before.

· Use of other non-standard preterites [KC – verb tenses], such as drownded as the past tense of drown, knowed as past tense of know, choosed as the past tense of choose, degradated as the past tense of degrade.

I knowed you for a fool soon as I seen you.

· Use of was in place of were, or other words regularizing the past tense of be to was.

You was sittin’ on that chair.

· Use of double modals (might could, might should, might would, used to could, etc.—also called "modal stacking") and sometimes even triple modals that involve oughta (like might should oughta).

I might could climb to the top.

I used to could do that.

· Use of (a-)fixin’ to, or just "fixing to" in more modern Southern, to indicate immediate future action in place of intending to, preparing to, or about to.

He’s fixin’ to eat.

They’re fixin’ to go for a hike.

· Use of ever in place of every.

Ever’where’s the same these days.

· Use of "over yonder" in place of "over there" or "in or at that indicated place," especially to refer to a particularly different spot, such as in "the house over yonder." Additionally, "yonder" tends to refer to a third, larger degree of distance beyond both "here" and "there," indicating that something is a longer way away, and to a lesser extent, in a wide or loosely defined expanse, as in the church hymn "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder."

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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