A recent fiery controversy of sociological and etymological proportions has broadened my knowledge of the two vernaculars. Such apparently is the unwitting but welcome nature of squabbling that with the proper application of rigidity, acuity and moral correctness, the outcome is not only instructive but also uncommonly relieving. I have at last succeeded to address what had become the behavioural equivalent of a cyst; that is,
. a membranous sac or cavity of abnormal character containing fluid; or,
. a tough protective capsule enclosing the larva of a parasitic worm or the resting stage of an organism.
As I complacently opined this morning in the drawing room precedent to my daily purgative tricycle ride, the erstwhile pollution has been removed. I am done, as the saying goes.
The contamination I hasten to add was in good part (and no doubt equal measure) my own doing; namely, the submission to qualified mannerisms which in my heart and gut I had never legitimized. The commotion was disjointed by a number of issues now too platitudinous to catalog among them age and sex differences, education and professional gulfs, social and historic dissimilarities. Accepting these blunt truths is I suppose never easy. For now at least I have lapsed into the curmudgeonly though inexpressibly sweetening resolve of impertinence and stubbornness. It is a far better fit. I suspect both parties to the kerfuffle are reassured.
As for the root of this dilemma – that is, the meaning of “flounder” – I confess my introduction to what seems to be the most topical use of the word enamoured me because it involved the sea and the cold blue waters surrounding Cape Cod which for years have been dear to me (though latterly the acquaintance has fallen into disuse replaced by the barrier islands of the North Atlantic Ocean from Hilton Head Island to the Gulf of Mexico).
The winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus), also known as the black back, is a right-eyed (“dextral”) flatfish of the family Pleuronectidae. It is native to coastal waters of the western north Atlantic coast, from Labrador, Canada to Georgia, United States, although it is less common south of Delaware Bay. It is the most common near-shore (shallow-water) flounder in the waters from Newfoundland down through Massachusetts Bay. Winter flounder are highly regarded for their delicious white meat and are sometimes called lemon sole.
What otherwise does the expression flounder mean? In summary ,“to move awkwardly or to be in an awkward or difficult situation”.
Flounder is a relatively common verb that current evidence dates to the late 16th century, when it was likely born by means of an alteration of an older verb, founder. The two have been confused ever since. Today, founder is most often used as a synonym of fail, or, in the case of a waterborne vessel, as a word meaning “to fill with water and sink.” Formerly, it was also frequently applied when a horse stumbled badly and was unable to keep walking. It’s likely this sense of founder led to the original and now-obsolete meaning of flounder: “to stumble.” In modern use, flounder typically means “to struggle” or “to act clumsily”; the word lacks the finality of founder, which usually denotes complete collapse or failure, as that of a sunken ship.
I have overlooked mentioning what is perhaps the essential ingredient of the dispute; viz., the accusation of imputed ignominy. Seemingly the employment of the word “flounder” carries with it not only the connotation of difficulty but more importantly that of degradation. As a former lawyer I never regarded difficulty as a stigma or disgrace; however, I acknowledge that for those attempting to sustain honour and face, the label may indeed descend to that level of mortification. In any event the damage is done. I sought to advance the position of the other by asserting her difficulty. While I regret the preciptious fallout from this choice (it happened through an unanticipated email I received around midnight last) I nonetheless rejoice that our differences were so clearly articulated; and, I am nonetheless in spite of our differencees hard pressed to discern any other stance I could have adopted as usefully without either deceit or camouflage.
Meanwhile I am personally no longer floundering as regards the relationship. As anxious (and as mistakenly) as I was to preserve what I incorrectly described as a lingering friendship, there are unquestionably adverse matters of paramountcy which lay claim to such longevity. Happily I don’t think either of us is any worse for the result. My work is complete. The bloom of the friendship is gone so to speak. We have the advantage to look forward to unfettered association, uncorrupted by mendacity and cunning from either of us.