Founder vs. Flounder

Did you know that some people who say the verb "flounder" actually mean "founder"?

This kind of thing always blows my mind. After I used flounder incorrectly at work, one of my bosses showed me the following entry in a book, 100 Words Almost Everyone Mixes Up or Mangles, that she purchased for me a few months ago. :)
Flounder, verb:
1. To move clumsily or with little progress, as through water or mud.
2. To act or function in a confused or directionless manner; struggle.

Founder, verb:
1. To sink below the surface of the water.
2. To cave in, sink.
3. To fail utterly, collapse.

"If a student is foundering in Chemistry 101, he had better drop the course; if he is floundering, he may yet pull through."
Since I didn't know that founder the verb existed until now, I definitely have been using flounder for all of those meanings!

Think about this: if a person flounders in the water, that person will likely founder at times.


1 comment:

  1. I have the opposite problem. I have seen people claim that flounder is not a legitimate verb, and if you say "flounder" you really mean to say "founder" because a flounder is only a fish. But this is inaccurate. BTW, I just came across flounder as a verb in chapter 10 in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows.