The email trailer for tonight’s BBC2 Newsnight begins:
FROM EMILY MAITLIS
“I only do the radio show to make people laugh and given the subsequent coverage I will stop doing the show.” – Radio 2 comedian, Russell Brand.
As the Ross/Brand furore reaches unfathomable heights, Russell Brand announced this evening he would be resigning from the BBC. In his statement he took full responsibility for the ill-fated comedy sketch and said he hoped Jonathan Ross and the BBC would endure “less forensic wrath”.
There are a couple of expressions there that enrich our language. The one that intrigues Malcolm is his headline here.
- Is la Maitlis being (perhaps) a little over-clever with her oxymoron?
- Is it an ill-considered mixed-metaphor?
Will Malcolm arouse himself from his pastoral torpor to sit up beyond an early bedtime in find out? Well, actually, no: he’ll catch the programme on iPlayer later.
OK: for the slow on the uptake, “unfathomed” derives from the use of a sounding line. When the sea was too deep for the leadsman to find bottom (in usual practice, that meant over 25 fathoms or 150 feet), the ocean was “unfathomed”. That’s down, not up. One would not want to chuck a sounding line and its 14-lb lead weight upwards, above one’s own head. For obvious reasons.