Preface–Chapter 3

In this memoir, journalist Susannah Cahalan recounts her battle with a mysterious and terrifying neurological illness at the age of 24.

Start learning with an activity...

  • Practice

    Answer a few questions on each word. Get one wrong? We'll ask some follow-up questions. Use it to prep for your next quiz!
  • Spelling Bee

    Test your spelling acumen. See the definition, listen to the word, then try to spell it correctly. Beat your last streak, or best your overall time. Spellers of the world, untie!
  • Vocabulary Jam

    Compete head-to-head in real-time to see which team can answer the most questions correctly. Start a Jam and invite your friends and classmates to join!

Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. foreboding
    a feeling of evil to come
    There is a dull foreboding in the pit of my stomach.
  2. scour
    examine minutely
    It was a reasonable concern, though after carefully scouring the apartment, I couldn’t find a single bug or any evidence of their presence.
  3. nonchalantly
    in a composed and unconcerned manner
    So at work the following day, I walked as nonchalantly as possible through the newsroom of the New York Post to my cubicle.
  4. glut
    an overabundant or excessive supply
    Today the newsroom itself is cavernous yet airless, filled with rows of open cubicles and a glut of filing cabinets packed with decades of unused, forgotten documents.
  5. impish
    naughtily or annoyingly playful
    “Don’t tell me you have them,” she said with an impish smile.
  6. fastidious
    giving careful attention to detail
    This meeting was impossible to forget, a weekly ritual that we all fastidiously prepared for, even during days off.
  7. gamely
    in a plucky or sporting manner
    Bedbugs forgotten, I widened my eyes at Angela as I stood back up, gamely hoping it all would work out once I got to Steve’s office.
  8. propensity
    a natural inclination
    With his shock of prematurely white hair and his propensity to toss the word...around like a preposition, he is the essence of a throwback newsman and a brilliant editor.
  9. debauchery
    a wild gathering involving drinking and promiscuity
    After a few years in which I worked as a runner, covering breaking news and feeding information to another reporter to write the piece, Paul offered me my first big assignment: an article on the debauchery at a New York University fraternity house.
  10. chutzpah
    unbelievable gall; insolence; audacity
    When I returned with a story and pictures of me playing beer pong, he was impressed with my chutzpah; even though the exposé never ran, he assigned me more stories until I had been hired on full time in 2008.
  11. tenement
    a run-down apartment house barely meeting minimal standards
    The apartment, eerily quiet, overlooked the courtyard of several tenements, and I often awoke not to police sirens and grumbling garbage trucks but to the sound of a neighbor playing the accordion on his balcony.
  12. whet
    make keen or more acute
    Though the experience had rattled me, it also whetted my appetite, and from then on, I became the resident “jailhouser.”
  13. psychosis
    severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost
    Though there didn’t seem to be much of a connection among my bedbug scare, my forgetfulness at work, and my sudden instinct to purge my files, what I didn’t know then is that bug obsession can be a sign of psychosis.
  14. lance
    move quickly, as if by cutting one's way
    When I got to my feet, a sharp pain lanced my mind, like a white-hot flash of a migraine, though I had never suffered from one before.
  15. pathogen
    any disease-producing agent
    But there likely was a pathogen of some sort that had invaded my body, a little germ that set everything in motion.
  16. mundane
    found in the ordinary course of events
    I sorted through months of mundane e-mails until I triumphantly unearthed a recent one from his ex-girlfriend.
  17. armoire
    a large wardrobe or cabinet
    Then, as I reached for the next letter, I caught sight of myself in the mirror of the armoire...
  18. pilfer
    make off with belongings of others
    I raced to the dresser to put away his things so that he wouldn’t notice my pilfering, trying to ignore the uncomfortable tingling sensation.
  19. neurologist
    a medical specialist in the nervous system
    But when I described my symptoms, the usual warmth dropped from his voice: “I’d like you to see a neurologist as soon as possible. And I’d like you to stop taking your birth control immediately.”
  20. discomfit
    cause to lose one's composure
    The contrast between the crystal-chandeliered entrance and the drab office was discomfiting, as if I had jumped back in time to the 1970s.
  21. pastoral
    idyllically rustic
    A few paintings hung around the walls of the waiting room: an ink sketch of a godlike man with a long white beard holding an instrument that looked suspiciously like a surgical needle; a pastoral scene; and a court jester.
  22. haphazard
    dependent upon or characterized by chance
    The haphazard decor made me wonder if everything, including the furniture, had been dug up at a garage sale or pilfered from sidewalk castoffs.
  23. emphatic
    forceful and definite in expression or action
    Several emphatic signs hung at the receptionist’s desk: PLEASE DO NOT USE LOBBY FOR PHONE CALLS OR WAITING FOR PATIENTS!!!!!!
  24. goad
    give heart or courage to
    This painting would stick in my mind, materializing again several more times in the coming months. Its unsettling, inhuman distortion sometimes soothed me, sometimes antagonized me, sometimes goaded me during my darkest hours.
  25. bray
    make a sound characteristic of donkeys
    “CALLAAHAANN,” the nurse brayed, mispronouncing my name.
Created on April 15, 2020 (updated April 15, 2020)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, sheffieldwind.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.