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Word for the Wise July 25, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Founder and sink

Sixty years ago today, in the late night fog off the Nantucket coast, on its final night at sea before its scheduled early morning arrival in New York, the Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria, carrying more than 1,700 people, collided—hard, and amidships—with the outbound Swedish ship Stockholm. Within thirty minutes, the captain of the Andrea Doria had given orders to abandon ship. (来源:英语学习门户网站EnglishCN.com)

Thanks to a superb rescue effort, almost every person not injured or killed during the actual collision survived. However, the Andrea Doria itself foundered and sank eleven hours (almost to the minute) after it had struck the Stockholm.

Did our use of the phrase foundered and sank make you wince, then wince again at our redundancy? Relax. It is true that when one differentiates founder from flounder, founder describes a ship filling with water and sinking (while flounder, just so no one is left hanging, is applied to a person struggling to move or to obtain footing).

But while founder has a well-established sense meaning "to become submerged; sink," it also has an established sense as part of the idiomatic founder and sink. Many usage commentators consider founder and sink to be on par with other such redundancies as huff and puff and dead and gone. In other words, if you hear about a ship foundering and sinking, worry about the people, not the wording.

 
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