Monday, July 02, 2012

Thoughts upon "fix"

A friend of mine wondered about the use of "fix" to mean "to make food/drink" when asked by one of his Chinese students as to why a word that meant "repair" could mean "to make food".

My response:
This is why words like "fix" tend to be so useful: they mean so friggin many things! Trying to get a foreigner whose language's word connections to actually understand what seems - even to people who don't really use the term in one way - not TOOO much of a stretch in logic just lie like a dead and slowly desiccating carcass in front of the mind of that speaker whose language cannot map a connection between "repair [a broken item]" to "prepare [a meal]" (and from there to "effect revenge" and "castrate" and "render [an image]" &c.)

To wit: "What's fixed in my mind is that I'm fixed on fixing to fix dinner of the fixed bull before it tries to fix me, so I should fix a meal time and fix it to my calendar. There's the fix."

This is why I just tell them that - in academic, technical writing - words that are so general (like fix as well as take, make, do, get, etc.) are just not really useful. Of course, the opposite is often true in conversational English.
Just to translate the phrase by using synonyms and synonymous phrases:

"What's stuck in my mind is that I'm concentrating on preparing to cook dinner of the castrated bull before it tries to take revenge on me, so I should set a meal time and put it on my calendar. That's the solution."

Ahh, the wonders of the English language. (Well, wonders of many languages, I'd suspect.) The multiple meanings of words such as fix make them useful in conversation, but can be problematic when trying to write. This seems to be especially true of words that have origins in Old English or Old Norse. However, in the case of fix, this is the exception that proves the rule in that it's a Latinate word.

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