There was the following sentence in a series about the art and craft of writing in New York Times (April 29) written by Tim Kreider under the title, “The Power of ‘I Don’t Know’”:
I’m always ill at ease when I find myself conscripted by the media into the role of Expert on some subject about which I have rashly written. I felt like the explanatory caption beneath my name on-screen ought to be: PERSON IN WORLD. [emphasis added]
As I checked a dictionary (OALED) at hand, it defines ill at ease as an idiom to mean uncomfortable and embarrassed, and uncomfortable as:
3. anxious, embarrassed or afraid and unable to relax
4. unpleasant or difficult to deal with
Are they saying the same thing? Does ill at ease sound more familiar and at-home than uncomfortable, or are they perfectly interchangeable?