Q: Foundering or floundering: what’s the difference?
A: In the wake of the recent Italian cruise ship disaster, foundering has been all over the news. As Reuters reported: “The 290-meter-long Costa Concordia capsized and foundered close to the Tuscan island of Giglio on January 13 after it struck a rock which tore a large gash in its hull.”
Foundering goes back to the Latin word “fundus,” which means bottom, or foundation. A foundered animal can’t get up. A foundered bridge has collapsed. A foundered ship has run aground or sunk.
If you’re floundering, you’re struggling in some way, flopping around literally, like a fish out of water, or metaphorically, like the NBA’s Washington Wizards. “Struggling to record just two wins this season, the floundering Washington Wizards have fired head coach Flip Saunders,” reported Associated Press / NBC4 Washington. Floundering is bad, but it’s better than foundering because you’re still moving, so there’s a chance you might make it.
- Things that founder have fallen to the bottom and have stopped.
- Things that flounder are flopping like a fish, but could still succeed.
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