with all the fixin’s

The One Big Happy from 7/28, all about fixin’s (also known as fixings):


The cartoon turns on a culinary distinction between main, or principal — essential — ingredients and accompanying, or accessory – in principle, optional — ones, the fixin’s. Without the leafy greens it’s not a green salad (though it could be a chopped salad), but if it’s got the leafy greens and no fixin’s (with nothing else except dressing), it’s a green salad.

From AHD5:

noun fixings: Informal Accessories, trimmings: a holiday dinner with all the fixings.

The example here has the full conventional collocation, or stock expression, with all the fixings, usually pronounced as informal (esp. Southern) fixin’s (spelled with or without an apostrophe). Simplifying considerably: nominals in –ing (as in beatings and singings) do have variants in /n/ rather than /ŋ/, but these pronunciations are mostly characterstic of South Midlands and Southern speech, especially in informal speech.

More detail in the DARE entry:

fixing (pronunciation spellings fixin’, fixen):

1 A piece of equipment, implement, accessory [cites from 1820 on, spread across US]

2 pl: Food [AZ: presumably ‘what people fix, or make, to eat’, as in I’ll fix you a sandwich] (1828 Western Souvenir 147, I feel powerfully weak; but I don’t like the fixens here, no how. [later cites from WA, IL])

3 pl: Trimmings, extras, frills — used esp of foods [cites from 1840 (NY, the salt and pepper fixings), eventually 1948 with the stock expression (AL wild turkey with all the fixings)]

The stock expression in a typical use:

(#2) From the Busy Being Jennifer site, roast turkey with cornbread stuffing, surrounded by (from the top left), a sampling of fixings, including desserts: cranberry Waldorf salad, cranberry stuffed turkey breast, rosemary mashed sweet potatoes, cherry pie bites, pear and goat cheese tart, prosciutto asparagus bundles

The site provides a number of alternatives. Of course, each American household has its own preferences. From a reader on this site:  “We usually have turkey, ham, beans, potato salad, hot rolls, fruit salad, cornbread dressing, and broccoli cheese rice casserole. The desserts are: apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pie, and usually a buttermilk pie.”

A matter of style and dialect. The /ɪn/ variants of nominal –ing, as in fixin’s, are almost surely not native to the speech of Ruthie and her mother — we’d expect them to use the variant fixings (with /ɪŋ/) — but they both use /ɪn/ in the cartoon. In the stock expression with all the fixin’s that sounds entirely natural (while They took terrible beatin’s would not). What’s going on?

I suggest that this is a conventionalized dialect borrowing: they’re using the homey Southern version of the stock expression for its affective value. A parallel: many of us for whom ain’t is not part of our varieties of English nevertheless use it for its affective value in certain fixed expressions — as I might do by conveying ‘I’m not the kind of person you’re looking for’ by quoting Bob Dylan’s It ain’t me, babe.

[Dylanesque digression, just because I like the song, in Dylan’s 1964 original version and in Johnny Cash & June Carter’s 1965 cover. From Wikipedia:

“It Ain’t Me Babe” is a song by Bob Dylan that originally appeared on his fourth album Another Side of Bob Dylan, which was released in 1964 by Columbia Records. According to music critic Oliver Trager, this song, along with others on the album, marked a departure for Dylan as he began to explore the possibilities of language and deeper levels of the human experience. Within a year of its release, the song was picked up as a single by folk rock act the Turtles and country artist Johnny Cash (who sang it as a duet with his future wife June Carter).

(#3) Dylan 1964

(#4) Cash & Carter 1965  ]

More affective value. Now look at which foods have their accompaniments or trimmings referred to by fixings / fixin’s. For example: turkey with all the fixings, cheeseburgers with all the fixings, hot dogs with all the fixings, carnitas tacos with all the fixings (I’m all in for them!), a ham dinner with all the fixings, and fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits with all the fixings. All homey, ordinary, unpretentious dishes.

What we don’t find are elegant or fancy dishes coming with fixings: they have side dishes, they’re served with accompaniments, but we don’t call those accessories fixings. Beef Stroganoff, for example, standardly is served on noodles and is frequently accompanied by some or all of: braised red cabbage, green beans with almond slivers, green salad, garlic bread. But it would be risible — it would be a little joke — to say you were then serving beef Stroganoff with all the fixings (or, more absurdly, fixin’s). The cultural style of beef Stroganoff is just discordant with the linguistic style of the noun fixings.

One Response to “with all the fixin’s”

  1. [BLOG] Some Friday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky takes a look at fixings, or fixins, as the case may […]

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