From chronic fatigue to whisker fatigue: fighting lexical fatigue
The DSM-V is an extensive catalogue of mental maladies – but it sure isn’t perfect or complete. This massive tome doesn’t even mention Star Wars fatigue, outrage fatigue, pumpkin space latte fatigue, Kardashian fatigue, collusion fatigue, or any of the other hundreds of terms folks coin every day while planning a nap.
The oldest example of the formula ‘X fatigue’ seems to be chronic fatigue, which has been around since at least 1908, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. We’ve been talking about metal fatigue since 1929, corrosion fatigue since 1926, and industrial fatigue since 1910. Combat fatigue is a World War II term dating from 1943 that was not a favorite of George Carlin’s. There’s also donor fatigue (plaguing charities and non-profits since 1948) and compassion fatigue, which feels new-ish but is at least as old as the late 1960s.
Other terms will never make it into the OED or even Paul McFedries’ guide to new words, Word Spy, but they still deserve your love. Just as fatigue is more common than oxygen in the world, fatigue terms are found in every nook and cranny of the lexicon. Just google anything plus fatigue and you’re likely to find a one-off example. But if that sounds like too much work, enjoy and consider using the following terms the next time you want to justify an early bedtime.
With endless movies, TV shows, cartoons, comics, toys, hats, and probably real-life Batarangs, it’s easy to get burnt out on Batman – even if he is the coolest superhero. Earlier this year, tweeter @FeyNudibranch wrote:
I came across this unexpectedly while binge-watching Batman The Brave and The Bold and it cured my 10-year Batman fatigue in about 5 seconds
— Kara Sowles (@FeyNudibranch) March 1, 2018
I rarely have this condition, but it can usually be cured by gazing into the eyes of Egyptian Batman, my life coach.
Some fatigue terms share a Venn diagram with real medical conditions, like the food coma (note to self: check to see if this is a real medical condition). Post-gobbling lethargy seems to be the motivation behind an @howiehowe tweet:
I now have pancake fatigue. It’s quite hard work eating lots of pancakes and reading the newspaper.
— Mark Howe (@howiehowe) June 3, 2012
Data breach fatigue
Other fatigues are more serious, especially if you value having a sliver of privacy. A recent CSO Online article uses a term we can all relate to, except those of us still writing on cave walls:
No one likes to have their data compromised, but when you hear about it happening so often, it’s easy to grow indifferent. According to new research from a group of professors at Iowa State University and the University of Texas San Antonio, this is referred to as data breach fatigue, and it is on the rise among consumers.
This is kind of a weird term, since crime would seem to demand a more lively response than fatigue. Imagine having home invasion fatigue or mugging fatigue.
I must have been born with chronic survey fatigue syndrome because I instantly fall asleep if I even consider filling out a survey. Or maybe I’m just lazy. This term turned up in a recent MarTechSeries post:
While there is nothing wrong with this level of determination to deliver better customer experiences, it is this continuous need for feedback that toes the fine line of tipping the respondents towards survey fatigue.
This is certainly a condition for survey-makers to consider when they’re not cackling in their evil volcano hideout.
Are you exhausted by self-help books, ‘empowering’ rhetoric, and the ever-spewing fountain of self-improvement palaver belched forth by our culture, much of it aimed like a nuclear missile at women? Then you may have best-self fatigue, a hilarious term used by author Margie Warrell, who sounds like she’s a contributor to the problem: As an author of four books that fall under the personal development umbrella, more and more I’m seeing people suffering from ‘best-self fatigue.’
Warrell also says: Not only is the best self-help self-compassion, but when you own your imperfection and choose to show up as the flawsome ‘human becoming’ that you are, you give others permission to do the same.
Flawsome? Human becoming? I now have insufferable jargon fatigue.
As a recent New York Times article puts it, ‘whisker fatigue is a fairly new diagnosis, one that many (but not all) veterinarians take seriously. When cats have to stick their faces into deep bowls and their whiskers rub up against the sides, the experience can be stressful, prompting them to paw the food onto the floor, fight with other cats or grow apprehensive at mealtime.’
As a many-whiskered mammal myself, I may share this malady: at mealtime, I too paw my food onto the floor, grow apprehensive, and fight with other cats. Don’t judge me.