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.”