Flounder and Founder

By Maeve Maddox

Jim Eggensperger asks:

Have you done flounder and founder recently?

As nouns, a flounder is a fish and a founder is someone who establishes something. Founder is also a disease of the horse’s foot known as laminitis.

This post is about flounder and founder as verbs.

flounder: to struggle violently and clumsily

founder: of a building, to fall down; of a horse, to stumble, collapse, fall helplessly to the ground; of a vessel, to fill with water and sink

Both words are commonly used in a figurative sense.

People who are uncertain of their purpose, or ill-prepared are said to flounder.

Floundering freshmen a concern

they … put up huge efforts against top teams but then flounder against the bottom-dwellers.

they’ve [Homeland Security] had all this time to get their act together and all they do is flounder.

A business or other enterprise that fails is said to founder.

Is “Intellectual Ventures” Foundering?

Foundering Healthcare Reform Legislation, Torpedoed by Senate Election

Chris Daly’s Progressive Primary foundering

Sometimes the meanings seem to overlap. For example, a company that lacks leadership may be both floundering and foundering.

The choice of words in the following examples leaves one wondering.

…Is Democracy Floundering?

Modern social state is floundering

Floundering in Afghanistan

Lou Piniella Accomplishes Little for a Floundering Franchise

Is Microsoft Floundering with Steve Ballmer at the Helm?

The following examples definitely call for foundering:

Caprica on Syfy Is Floundering In The Ratings (the ratings are falling)

Floundering El Niños Make for Fickle Forecasts (they’re becoming weaker)

Floundering New Mexico Film Museum to shut (it’s out of money)

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3 Responses to “Flounder and Founder”

  • NianQing

    haha! Good!

  • Jon

    Another case of inter-related cause and effect, perhaps?

    After all, it’s been found that if the founder flounders, the venture founders (like a sinking flounder?)

  • Steve Weinstein

    One might say (and I do in the grammar book I’m writing):

    Because the fishery he established only farmed one breed of fish and didn’t diversify, and those fish developed a debilitating gill disease that caused them to thrash about in the water until they died, the founder’s firm foundered when his flounders floundered.

    © 2014 Steven H. Weinstein

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