Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 11, 2020 is:
malaise • muh-LAYZ • noun
1 : an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness
2 : a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being
“Nothing can make you forget the malaise of social distancing like the pain of being a teenager.” — Ariel Shapiro, Forbes, 19 Apr. 2020
“While the bats’ social distancing could possibly limit a pathogen’s spread, Stockmaier doesn’t think these isolating behaviours have evolved to protect other bats. Instead, he says they may be a consequence of the bats’ malaise and lethargy from feeling ill.” — Jake Buehler, New Scientist, 6 May 2020
Did you know?
Malaise, which ultimately traces back to Old French, has been part of English since the 18th century. One of its most notable uses, however, came in 1979—well, sort of. U.S. President Jimmy Carter never actually used the word in his July 15 televised address, but it became known as the “malaise speech” all the same. In the speech, Carter described the U.S. as a nation facing a “crisis of confidence” and rife with “paralysis and stagnation and drift.” He spoke of a “national malaise” a few days later, and it’s not hard to see why the “malaise” name stuck. The speech was praised by some and criticized by others, but whatever your politics, it remains a vivid illustration of the meaning of malaise.