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Appendages Part Two: Fix Your Feet

Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Hello and welcome to Wordy Wednesday! In this weekly segment I highlight a book I’m currently reading and the new words I’ve learned from it. 

Today the book is Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom. Her writing is smart and savory, nutrition for intellect and spirit. When reading McMillan Cottom I take my time. 

In the first essay “Thick,” McMillan Cottom shares that she was born bow-legged AND pigeon-toed. Rather than undergoing a series of corrective surgeries that would first require breaking both legs, her mother “couldn’t let them do that to [her] baby” (13). Instead, McMillan Cottom grew up with her mother “teaching me to fix myself,” she says (14). And so the mantra of her mother began:

“Fix your feet.”

In order to walk like a normal person, she had to work at it, wearing out her joints and occupying her focus. It’s an analogy for her way of life as a Black woman. She writes, 

“Fixing my feet is about accepting the complex reality of black life in the twenty-first century. I am living in the most opportune time in black history in the United States and that means, still, that I will die younger, live poorer, risk more exposure to police violence, and be punished by social policy for being a black woman in ways that aren’t true for almost any other group in this nation[. …] Fixing my feet means knowing how badly the outcomes are likely to be for persisting and pursuing, but doing it anyway. I fix myself, even when it causes great pain to do so, because I know that I cannot fix the way the world sees me” (24-5). 

To merely read the statistics on the effects of racism is to take a step back from its reality. To read McMillan Cottom’s words is the antithesis—to step beside her and watch her fix her feet.

Today’s words come from this book of essays. Each word I chose was familiar to me in some way, but in its context here I needed to know more about its meaning to understand the writing. For example, “sanguine” has a medical meaning that refers to the ancient humoral theory of physiology, but that was not its meaning in “Thick.” The verb “lionize” sounds like it could mean turn something into a beast of sorts, but that’s not right either. 

Below you’ll find the words, the sentence in which I found them, their Oxford definitions—where there are multiple, I put in bold the most applicable—and lastly a sentence in which I use the word. Feel free to try out the words yourself, and share your sentences in the comments!


“But, as Stacia L. Brown points out in her essay on how and why black women writers find themselves hewn to personal essay genre, black women find no amount of pathos, logos, or ethos includes them in the civic sphere of public discourse and persuasion” (22).


  1. chop or cut (something, especially wood or coal) with an axe, pick, or other tool.

  2. (North American) conform or adhere to.

Individuals who value independent thinking tend to avoid hewing to common ideals. 


“Those glorious artists who win awards at programs where they wear flowy dresses and take pictures mid-sanguine smile” (25).


  1. optimistic or positive, especially in an apparently bad or difficult situation.

  2. (in medieval science and medicine) of or having the constitution associated with the predominance of blood among the bodily humors, supposedly marked by a ruddy complexion and an optimistic disposition.

The dog with a hat sips his coffee, surrounded by flames, sanguine (with fiery warmth or optimism? No one can tell) and says, “This is fine.”

Dog with hat sits in room on fire and says, "This is fine."
Comic by KC Green


“They are also an ideal meant to lionize a version of white western history” (46).

Verb: give a lot of public attention and approval to (someone); treat as a celebrity.

To make a video go viral is to lionize its creator. 

What sentences can you come up with? Share in the comments! 



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