Standing by 

When the TV goes out, and it's not the fault of your set, they ask you to please stand by, but they don't tell you who or what it is that you're supposed to stand by.

Do they mean stand by that chifferobe over yonder, or what?

Tammy Wynette might assume they're seconding her motion to stand by yore man.

Why do they care who or what you stand by while they're fooling around with cables and switches and stuff trying to get your picture back on?

Why do they want you to stand at all?

Most people watch television from a sitting position, so why, when it goes out, do they want you to drag yourself up from a comfortable slouch or sprawl there on the couch  and take up the uncomfortable at-attention position of standing beside something?

Why not, Please hunker by?

Makes no sense.

It would be a lot politer and more reasonable if they said, “We're trying to fix what's wrong and meantime you might want to make a snack run or a tinkle run, open a brewski, make some canapes, and who knows, we might be back on the air by the time you return.”

You also hear this on all the telethons and home-shopping ads: “Operators are standing by.”

Not a word about what they're standing by, or why, or why you should care.

Notice that they don't say that these operators standing by something or someone unspecified are telephone operators. They might be smooth operators, which is usually another name for shady characters. And often what those shady-character smooth operators are standing by is a lamppost.

    They probably are smooth operators, in fact. Telephone operators would almost certainly be sitting by, not standing by, and not a lamppost, and hardly anyone ever describes ham-radio operators as standing by, or backhoe operators, or operators of the kind who take your gall bladder out.

I'm also herewith proposing to make it a capital offense hereafter to append the term “and all the fixin's” to any cookout invitation or reference.

“And all the fixin's” means “We'll have some other stuff to eat besides the meat.” But it's a way of avoiding saying what that other stuff is.

 Since “fixin's” doesn't really mean anything, you could get away with using it to mean the paper plates you're serving the catfish on, or the plastic forks, or the carcasses of all the flies you've swatted while waiting for all your guests to arrive.

Your toothpicks could be a “fixin',”  especially if you've gone to the trouble of affixing those little festive plastic ribbon loops onto one end of them. The ketchup could legally be called a “fixin'. I'd bet the Rev. Jim Jones had no reservations whatever about calling his tubs of deadly Kool-Aid a “fixin.'

Honorable people usually try to be more specific. Instead of “fixin's” they'll say potato salad or fries, baked beans, cole slaw, sliced onions, hush puppies, and tea. But such honest disclosure isn't enough to redeem the term “and all the fixin's”  because that's nowhere near a complete list of bona fide, edible, even savory fixin's. It's not all the fixin's by a long shot.

Somebody nearly always brings a pie, for instance.

And I've never been to an “and all the fixin's” spread at which, if there wasn't chow-chow, it wasn't sorely missed.

Sen. Hillary Clinton used to carry a bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce in her purse and haul it out for liberal use at least a couple of times a day, including at state dinners at the White House, and I'm sure she considers that an indispensable fixin'.

A companion term that we probably also ought to outlaw is “and all the trimmings.” I don't know the difference between fixin's and trimmings, if there is a difference, but I have a notion that the latter term may be used primarily if not exclusively in reference to Thanksgiving dinners that feature turkey. Giblets would be a trimming, then, and not a fixin'.

I would think, however, that dressing, called stuffing in some of the more backward regions of the country, is better qualified to be called a fixin' than a trimming, because it's prepared by somebody going into the kitchen and fixing it rather than somebody going in there and trimming it. You fix dressing, you don't trim dressing, so it should be called a fixin'.

The noun fixin' that is referred to in the expression “and all the fixin's” is a different variety of fixin' from the verb form that is often spoken in these parts. They are cousins, as both forms suggest preparatory work, but distant ones – distant enough so there's no confusion when someone says, as someone around here often does, “I'm fixin' to go in yonder and fix the fixin's for our cookout.”

In this part of the country, we have Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings but we don't have Christmas trees with all the trimmings, because we don't trim our Christmas trees, we only “put them up.”  You might very well overhear somebody saying, “I'm fixin' to put up the Christmas tree,” but you'd no more hear, “I'm fixin' to trim the tree” than you would “I'm fixin' the put the fixin's on the tree.”



From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Bob Lancaster

  • Wretched rez

    I had some New Year's Rez(olutions) for 2016 but that ship sailed so I'm renaming them my Spring Rez or my All-Occasion Whatevers and sending them along.
    • May 26, 2016
  • Nod to Bob

    A look back at the weird and wonderful world of Bob Lancaster.
    • Mar 21, 2013
  • On black history

    If you're going to devote an entire month to appreciating the history of a color, it might as well be the color black.
    • Feb 14, 2013
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Latest in Bob Lancaster

  • Lancaster retires

    Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.

    • Feb 21, 2013
  • On black history

    If you're going to devote an entire month to appreciating the history of a color, it might as well be the color black.
    • Feb 14, 2013
  • Making it through

    Made it through another January, thank the Lord.
    • Feb 6, 2013
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • .... and having a beer with Gene Lyons, who gave the cutest clumsy curtsy before…

    • on May 27, 2017
  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • Are you saying Karl Marx has left the building? The New York Times denies it…

    • on May 27, 2017
  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • Yes, Lyon's thinks it is Fox Network that promotes the lies that the West has…

    • on May 26, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation