Grammar enthusiasts fumed when a web dictionary added a few nonstandard words to its site. One of them that seemed to draw ire was ‘finna.’
I’ve seen more and more instances of the nonstandard word finna lately.
Note that I called it a nonstandard word. More on that in a minute. Grammar snobs started throwing fits when they learned that a group of words like finna now appear in the dictionary.
Actually, the dictionary in question is the online Dictionary.com, which added it and a few other questionable forms like “supposably,” a misspelling and mispronunciation of supposedly.
Dictionary.com defines the word, in part, as “a phonetic spelling representing the African American Vernacular English variant of fixing to.”
Let’s stop right there for a second. The fact that the dictionary added a nonstandard word known as an African American variant set some people off by itself. Their racism showed very clearly in that outrage.
But the definition goes on to explain the word stands as a variant of the phrase “fixing to,” a Southern expression. I grew up in the South where people of all races use that phrase. But because it’s the South, they drop the G and instead say, “fixin’ to.”
I don’t object to finna because it’s mostly a Black variant of a phrase. (And I see plenty of younger white people using it online in an attempt to be hip.) I don’t object to “fixin’ to” because it’s a Southern phrase.
I object to both because they’re thoroughly unnecessary.
When someone says, “I’m fixin’ to go to the store,” or even, “I’m finna go to the store,” they mean they’re preparing to go to the store.
How much preparation does one need to do something? Well, it depends. One generally needs a good deal of prep time for, say, a colonoscopy. One generally doesn’t need a great deal of time to go to a store.
Instead of saying, “I’m fixin’ to/finna go to the store,” all they really need to say is, “I’m going to the store.”
We don’t need “fixin’ to” or “finna.” They don’t really add meaning most of the time they’re used.
That’s my beef with the word.
Then there’s that whole ‘nonstandard’ thing.
Recently, I told you about the nonstandard word “conversate” appearing in the dictionary. The word’s addition prompted a similar level of outrage. I suspect the fact that it is often used in African American Vernacular English contributed to the outrage.
When a dictionary adds a word, it’s not setting out to legitimize the word’s use. A dictionary is not a style manual. A dictionary merely defines words in use so people can better understand what people are saying.
In some cases, like “conversatte,” “finna” and “irregardless,” the dictionary explains what the speaker or writer meant to say.
They’re considered nonstandard words because they don’t belong in more formal writing. But when we have casual conversations, “standard” grammar sometimes flies right out the window.
That standard becomes important in more formal settings. For example, if you’re applying for a job and writing a cover letter, you’ll probably want to avoid nonstandard words.
You may be judged negatively because of them. You can argue all day whether that’s fair. But fighting that particular argument, I’m afraid, doesn’t change reality.
If you use words and phrases like “finna” or “fixin’ to,” people will probably know what you mean.
That doesn’t mean they won’t judge your word choices, fair or not.
It just depends how much the latter matters to you.