H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
practise as to fix. In his speech it means only to make fast or to determine. In American it may mean to repair, as in the plumber fixed the pipe; to dress, as in Mary fixed her hair; to prepare, as in the cook is fixing the gravy; to bribe, as in the judge was fixed; to settle, as in the quarrel was fixed up; to heal, as in the doctor fixed his boil; to finish, as in Murphy fixed Sweeney in the third round; to be well-to-do, as in John is well-fixed; to arrange, as in I fixed up the quarrel; to be drunk, as in the whiskey fixed him; to punish, as in Ill fix him; and to correct, as in he fixed my bad Latin. Moreover, it is used in all its English senses. An Englishman never goes to a dentist to have his teeth fixed. He does not fix the fire; he makes it up, or mends it. He is never well-fixed, either in money or by liquor.27 The American use of to run is also unfamiliar to Englishmen. They never run can hotel, or a railroad; they always keep it or manage it.
The English use quite a great deal more than we do, and, as we have seen, in a different sense. Quite rich, in American, means tolerably rich, richer than most; quite so, in English, is identical in meaning with exactly so. In American just is almost equivalent to the English quite, as in just lovely. Thornton shows that this use of just goes back to 1794. The word is also used in place of exactly in other ways, as in just in time, just how many and just what do you mean? Two other adverbs, right and good, are used in American in senses strange to an Englishman. Thornton shows that the excessive use of right, as in right away, right good and right now, was already widespread in the United States early in the last century; his first example is dated 1818. He believes that the locution was possibly imported from the southwest of Ireland. Whatever its origin, it quickly attracted the attention of English visitors. Dickens noted right away as an almost universal Americanism during his first American tour, in 1842, and poked fun at it in the second chapter of American Notes. Right is used as a synonym for directly, as in right away, right off, right now and right on time;
Note 27. Already in 1855 Bristed was protesting that to fix was having more than its legitimate share of work all over the Union. In English conversation, he said, the panegyrical adjective of all work is nice; in America it is fine. This was before the adoption of jolly and its analogues, ripping, stunning, rattling, etc. Perhaps to fix was helped into American by the German word. [back]