Professional Style

Flounder vs. Founder

June 2011
Spot the Error

As a result of the owner’s excessive drinking, the company floundered and closed its doors after only a year in business.

Have you ever seen a flounder? Not the one in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but a real one. Flounders are some of the most bizarre fish I’ve ever seen. They seem to have eyes on the same side of their head … or face or whatever. Their strange appearance makes it easy for me to envision a flounder floundering (or clumsily moving or thrashing about) when plopped on a boat deck.

In the “drinking” sentence above, however, the company didn’t flop about like a fish out of water … it sank like the Titanic. It foundered. Founder means to fill with water and sink; to break down or to fail.

Need a mnemonic device to keep the two straight?

  • Flounder — flops about like a “flounder” out of water.
  • Founder — sinks like a damaged ship, which can be “found” at the bottom of the ocean.

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