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)