It is from this video. It is at 15 minute and 4 second. Here is the context:

What if we were living in the most possible reality? Imagine the exestential pressure on us to live up to that, to be elegant not to pull down the tone of it.

Does he mean not to spoil it? Where does this phrase come from?

  • I'm not sure it's meaningful to ask where the usage pull down the tone of [some lofty ideal] "comes from". The word tone has had the figurative sense special or characteristic style or tendency of thought, feeling, behaviour, etc.; spirit, character, tenor; esp. the general or prevailing state of morals or manners in a society or community since at least 1641 (the OED's first citation). And I'm sure things like reputations, emotional states, and characters have been metaphorically pulled down (reduced, detracted from) at least that long as well. Sep 8, 2018 at 12:51
  • Not sure what "the most possible reality" would be, but who gives a flying f...k. There, I've "pulled the tone down".
    – TimR
    Sep 8, 2018 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


The usual idiomatic expression is 'to lower the tone of' something. This means that you make something (e.g. an event, a conversation, a location, etc.) less polite, or less dignified, or less elegant, or less respectable than it should be.

Collins English Dictionary defines 'lower the tone' as:

If you say that something lowers the tone of a place or event, you mean that it is not appropriate and makes the place or event seem less respectable.

Your excerpt is using a slight variation on the idiomatic phrase, substituting 'pull down' for 'lower', but the meaning is the same. So, your interpretation, that 'pull down the tone' means to 'spoil' is correct.

  • Except for a tone of voice. If someone is shouting and you say lower your tone, the definition does not fit...funny, huh? Doesn't the Collins point that out? But overall, your answer is right.
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2018 at 18:39

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