Thursday, September 01, 2005

In which I learn new words and clarify some old

William Safire taught me some slang this week. (And though I'm not very hip for my 27 years, few newspaper columnists are up on even me when it comes to the parlance of our times.) His On Language column gives a name to the roll of fat that hangs over a pair of too-tight low-rise jeans: the muffin-top on a woman, the stud-muffin-top on a man. Very cute.

And this Word Watch column offers a refresher on the difference between flounder and founder.
A ship that founders is one that fills with water and sinks. The word can also be used to mean "break down, collapse or fail," as in, "The business lost money and foundered."

A person who flounders is struggling to move or thrashing about trying to gain footing. It might make you think of a fish that is flapping around out of water, since "flounder," when used as a noun, refers to a type of fish.
(This is one I looked up again just last week to be sure; as the column points out, the two meanings can be pretty close when used metaphorically.)


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