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Cranial Berms on the Mind

Happy Wordy Wednesday! Today’s words come from the YA novel Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. I chose it to fulfill the Reading Women Challenge prompt to read a book in the genre of Afrofuturism.

Afrofuturism is defined as “a movement in literature, music, art, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes which incorporate elements of black history and culture” (New Oxford American Dictionary). In this case, the story takes place after the civil war devolves into a zombie apocalypse.

I didn’t realize at first that it was a young adult (YA) novel, so I had to adjust my expectations once I put that together. I found the novel enjoyable to listen to on audiobook. The version on the Libby App I use through my library had a great narrator.

As a side note, if you have not found success while listening to audiobooks, I suggest you speed up the narration. I listen at 1.5x the recording speed so that I don’t lose focus. It sounds counterintuitive, but if your “narrator” inside your head reads quickly, then you'll do best when your audiobooks match its speed.

Four words from Dread Nation caught my attention. For each, you’ll see the sentence in which Ireland used the word, followed by the definition from New Oxford American Dictionary. Then I take a stab at the word in an original sentence. Feel free to play along and include your own sentences in the comments!


“Sometimes a little subterfuge and chicanery is in order and the quickest way to achieve one’s goals.”

Noun: the use of trickery to achieve a political, financial, or legal purpose.

She decided to employ some chicanery: she’d flirt to get the truth out of him.


“But there’s no way we’d make it beyond the berm if I do that.”

Noun: a flat strip of land, raised bank, or terrace bordering a river or canal; a path or grass strip beside a road; an artificial ridge or embankment, e.g., as a defense against tanks.

In the alley behind my workplace is a sign that warns drivers not of speed bumps, but of speed berms.


“I don’t believe in phrenology at all. It’s easily disproven, the pet hobby of bigots.”

Noun: the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities.

Before there was Freud splicing personality into id, ego, and superego, there was phrenology parsing our personality with head circumference and cranial ridges.


“Tomorrow, I'm going to implore the good doctor for some laudanum.”

Noun: an alcoholic solution containing morphine, prepared from opium and formerly used as a narcotic painkiller.

Narcotics, ranging from current forms such as OxyContin to the historical laudanum, are highly addictive because they destroy one’s endogenous opioids so that the body loses its innate ability to modulate pain.

Share your own sentences using today’s words in the comments!



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