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Monday, January 9, 2012

Floundering



To the confusion and delight of those learning the English language, the word “fish” is both a noun (an underwater creature usually with fins) and a verb (what you do to procure yourself one for supper). If something “smells fishy,” it either means that literally, there is an odor of fish in the air, or as an allusion to the briny stink, that something suspicious is going on.

“Flounder” provides a similarly tasty bit of linguistics. A flounder is a type of fish, as well as a behavior. The behavior — to thrash about clumsily or wallow ineffectually — is perhaps a characteristic misinterpretation of the fish, which, as a flatfish, burrows under or lays on the loose gravel on the ocean floor, camouflaged perfectly so that it disappears against this backdrop. It then bursts to life when lunch swims by. It has developed a unique answer to the problem of being a flat fish — that of only being able to see with the eye facing upwards — by moving one of its eyes around so that both are on the same side of its head. Flounder are the marine equivalent of a Picasso painting.

Flounder don’t flounder at all. The same cannot be said for the culinary genius behind this dish, however, which would benefit both from disappearing into the background and by being prepared by someone with an eye on each side of their head.

Low-Cost Main Dishes, Family Circle, 1978

Also from this book: What The Dickens?All Trussed Up And Nowhere To Go, Adventures in Salad

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