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Hint: One has a little more attitude

Here at Southern Living, we like to talk about grammar and spelling. Is it y’all or ya’ll? Down-home or downhome? We disagree on some, and then we turn to our copy editors who set us grammatically aright and keep our magazine mistake-free. There’s one set of Southern words, though, that keeps us on our toes. These two words can’t be defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary alone.

“Fixin’ ” and its linguistic cousin “fixing” are two terms that Southerners know well. We have adopted and adapted these words to suit our habits and our moods—especially our moods. These two words are closely related, and one might even think that “fixin’ ” is just “fixing” with a Southern drawl, but we’d argue that’s not quite the case.

Dropping that final “g” isn’t just the effect of a smooth-talking Southern accent. It’s an infusion of attitude that Southerners appreciate and deploy when the appropriate situation arises. We’re sometimes accused of speaking too slowly, but no one can tell us that we don’t know about emphasis, and “fixin’ ” has emphasis to spare.

You’re fixing a car, but you’re fixin’ to go to the store. You’re fixing the T.V., but you’re fixin’ to take out the trash. Not quite clear?

“Fixing” is a practical term. It has to do with planning, repairing or fastening. It’s active, current. “Fixin’,” however, is commonly used to signal that you’re going to do something. That you haven’t done it yet, but you’re about to. That you’ve set it in your sights, and you plan to do it, promise. “Fixin’ ” is often used in response to a question, nagging or not. It has foresight and, often, more than a little bit of attitude.

And it’s not just “fixin’.” Drop the “g,” and watch the emphasis increase. Take “telling,” for example. “You’re tellin’ me that you don’t know?” Subtract one letter, and it just has a little more heft, doesn’t it? It changes your tone ever so slightly.

One situation in which “fixing” and “fixin’ ” are synonymous (save for the accent) is in the kitchen. If you have all the fixings for Thanksgiving supper, you’re north of the Mason-Dixon. If you have all the fixins, you can bet that you’re below it.

WATCH: Our Favorite Southern Slang Video

Disclaimer: If you’re at school or at work, you should probably go with “fixing,” but give us some wiggle room, and we’ll give you Southern grammar to have fun with. Do you use "fixin' " or "fixing"? Now that you’ve learned the difference between the two, let us know if you agree or if you don't (especially if you don't!).