Fixin’ to: This is a Southern phrase typically used before a verb. It can be loosely translated as “about to” or “going to”. This phrase, however, should be avoided in most of the New England region, as is can be confusing to some Northerners. Upon use, they may ask, “What broke?” or “What exactly are you fixing?”
Jimmies: If you ever get ice cream at one of the mom and pop stands popular in the New England region, you may be surprised to have a flustered teen asking you from behind the window if you’d like jimmies on your ice cream. You may even be asked, “Rainbow jimmies or chocolate?” Jimmies, my Southern friends, are what we call sprinkles. They are thus named in New England because of a candy maker named Samuel Born, who founded the Just Born Candy Company. The man who operated the machine that was responsible for the creation of sprinkles (Born’s invention) was named James Bartholomew. Born, therefore, decided to name the little candy topping after his devoted employee. Since the Just Born Candy Company was based in Boston, the New England term is “jimmies”.
Regular Coffee: In the South, if you ask for a regular coffee, a mug is set on your table with straight-up black coffee. In New England, however, a regular coffee has cream and sugar included. The Dunkin’ Donuts standards for a “regulah” are as follows: two packs of sugar and two squirts of cream. When ordering coffee in New England, if you want regular coffee, ask for black, Southerners.
Wicked: In New England, this word is used as an intensifier. Instead of saying, “She’s beautiful”, one would say “She’s wicked beautiful!” It is synonymous with words like “so”, “very”, or (if you’ve been around Meg Davis long enough) “turbo”. It has been in use at least since the twenties, first in Boston presumably, and then beyond. The first printed recording we have knowledge of can be found in This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
All Set: Prepare yourselves, Southerners. This one’s a doozy. And, yes, I understand the complete lameness of using the term “doozy”, but it’s true. Now, “all set” can have at least four meanings that I have identified. I could find no information on this term or its origins, but it is a clear sign of adoption into the North or of upbringing here.
1. “All set” can mean “finished”, especially when used in restaurants. It is not uncommon to hear a busboy say, for example, “You all set with that plate?” Sometimes at family dinner tables, this is even asked of children in baby-talk, “All set, honey? Oh, good! A happy plate!”
2. “All set” can also mean “ready” or “prepared”. Before leaving the house, one Northerner may say to the other, “You all set?” to which the other may reply, “Yeah, lemme just grab my coat and I’ll be all set.” Another scenario may play out at such: “How’s dinner? Almost ready?” “All set.”
3. A third possible definition of “all set” is “fine” or “okay”. If, perhaps, a child trips in the park, the mother may rush over and say, “Are you alright?” to which the child may respond, “I’m all set, Ma!” and run off to continue playing. In addition to physical malady, this term can also be used in regards to emotional upset or turmoil. If a woman is crying, she may wave away a friend saying snifflingly, “No, really. I’m all set.”
4. My fourth and final definition of “all set” is an offer of assistance. This is heard very frequently in the summer time when most New Englanders, if they plan to move to a different house or apartment do so (it’s a real pain hauling boxes through the snow). One mover may see another struggle to lift a heavy box and say, “Whoa, man, you all set with that?” This term, however, is not limited to physical trials. It can also encompass any task displaying a necessity of skill. One Northerner may say to another, who is installing new software on a computer, “You all set with that?”
There are many more examples of New England slang and differences in regional vocabulary yet to be explored. If you have any questions or suggestions, email the staff!
Article by Meg Davis
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