English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Today’s Washington Post (May 10) portrays what the SEAL who shot bin Laden looks like under the headline,. “Who shot bin Laden? Former SEALs fill in the blank.”

In this article, former Navy SEALs Richard Marcinko and Stew Smith guess the shooter must be “a positive thinker” who “gets in trouble when he’s not challenged,” Richard Marcinko suspects, a man who “flunked vacation and flunked relaxing.”

I was interested in the expression, the guy “gets in trouble when he’s not challenged,” because I’m not that kind, but caught up with the word, flunk in “flunked vacation and flunked relaxing.”

My understanding of the meaning of “flunk” was only “fail in exam or work.” So I checked the meaning of “flunk” in Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, which simply defines “flunk” as an intransitive verb meaning “to fail an exam or test or course, and to make sb fail an exam or course by giving a low mark or grade as transitive verb. The definition doesn’t sit well with vacation and relaxing.

Does “flunk” here mean dislike or ignore? Is this popular way of using “flunk” in day- to-day English?

share|improve this question
up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's a joke: "Flunk" is being used as you understand it ("to fail") but in a humorous way. Marcinko is saying that if the shooter tried to relax, he would be unable to, because he is addicted to his work.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.