"Descending" votes and voices

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From Elliott Penegar:

I was reading school board minutes (don’t ask) and noticed that the board secretary had noted several times that a board member had cast a “descending vote.”  I thought, “What was the member doing, voting while walking down the stairs?” No. She evidently meant “dissenting vote.” But it was “descending” each and every time . . .

A couple of examples from the document that Elliott sent:

This one seems new to Chris Weigl's Eggcorn Database, but other examples are Out There:

[link] When Joseph tells this to Pharaoh and that he needs to find a man of wisdom to implement God's plan of plenty even in famine, Joseph is unanimously chosen with no descending votes from Pharaoh's advisors.
[link] It's important to understand, that when the Church accepted this theory, 300 years after the life and death of Jesus, there were descending votes.
[link] If there are more than two (2) descending votes, the nominee will be eligible for re-nomination at the next club meeting.
[link] The motion passed 4-3 with Toni Holik, Trish Bauerlein, and Vance Lankford casting the descending votes.
[link] Approving votes: Barry DelCurto,. Robert Jaeger, Duane Bernard, Steve McClelland; descending votes: Ron Borisch, Tom Alkire, Jim Morrell

There are "descending voices" Out There as well:

People that were 18 or 19 when Obama was voted in have essentially 8 years of living in an echo chamber with virtually no descending voices
It was all amicable with no descending voices from any of the parties involved.
This is Britain 2.0, you belong to us, no freedom of speech, no descending voices, you are not a free man, you are a number!
And yet, few to no descending voices in Washington, from the clergy and almost none from the people of the Republic.


  1. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 11:42 am

    Note the similarity between the paired opposites ascent/descent and assent/dissent. And indeed although most of the first few pages of "ascending votes" mean something else that makes sense in context there are a handful that only make sense as an eggcorn substitute for "assenting votes."

  2. J.W. Brewer said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 11:43 am

    (sorry – "first few pages" = "first few pages of google hits for")

  3. Bloix said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 12:12 pm

    This makes sense to me in that (1) "dissent" is fairly rare – "disagree" and "oppose" are more common and (2) "descending" invokes the relationship between "down" and negativity.

  4. Bloix said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

    And off-topic, I noticed today that "drop" has become a contronym, one of those words – like cleave and sanction – that means its own opposite. From Digby's Hullabaloo today:

    "Since Paul Ryan and company dropped their plan and the House speaker took to the airwaves with his sleeves rolled up to give the country a riveting PowerPoint presentation, it’s been obvious that their plan is in big trouble."

    She's using "drop" in the recent sense of the release of a pop song, not in the sense of giving up on or withdrawing.

  5. Jonfrum said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 1:41 pm

    Probably 'drop' as in 'drop a stack of papers on a desk.'

  6. Belial Issimo said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 3:16 pm

    On "drop", compare "table", which in AmE means to set aside consideration of something (like a motion), but in BrE means to begin consideration.

  7. Rubrick said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 4:03 pm

    @Belial: On "drop", compare "table", which in AmE means to set aside consideration of something (like a motion), but in BrE means to begin consideration.

    Hm, both "drop" and "table". Looks like another attack vector for Little Bobby Tables….

  8. David Marjanović said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 5:16 pm

    I'm surprised about the example that mentions "Britain 2.0". Is the writer from Britain? I'd have expected the homonymy to result from American t-flapping.

  9. Rebecca said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 6:32 pm

    @Bloix – or drop as in "Beyonce dropped her surprise album'

  10. Bob Ladd said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 6:40 pm

    @David Marjanovic: But after /n/, North American "flapping" is not normally neutralising. There's a clear distinction (at least for me) between e.g. center and sender, and also between dissenting and descending. The ones with /d/ have a clear [n] segment and then a [d], whereas the ones with /t/ have something like a nasal vowel and then a flap/tap. If there's any neutralisation, it's between /VntV/ and /VnV/, e.g. winter and winner.

  11. Bloix said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 7:18 pm

    Rebecca – Yes. Or this, from Slate today: "Over the weekend, Warner Bros. dropped a brand new trailer for Wonder Woman."
    But I'd never heard it used for legislation, or anything outside of pop culture, before.

  12. Gwen Katz said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 8:24 pm

    I'm pretty sure the origin of "drop" is "drop a record onto a turntable."

    My first thought with "descending vote" was some kind of runoff voting system where you list multiple options in order of preference.

  13. Ellen Kozisek said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 10:17 pm

    @Bob Ladd. I'm American, and while dissenting and descending sound distinctly different in my head, when I say them aloud, they are close enough that I wouldn't trust someone else could tell the difference by sound along, with no context.

  14. j said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 11:13 pm

    @Bob Ladd, @Ellen Kozisek: Surely the pin-pen merger affects the potential for confusion of 'dissent' and 'descent' as well.

  15. Joyce Melton said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 11:39 pm

    @j But the vowels in dissent and descent are not the ones in the pin/pen merger in my idiolect. And I do say inkpen and stickpin to make sure people know which I mean. Dissent is that neutral front vowel halfway between pan and peen that Arkies (like me) use for both pin and pen. But descent is usually the peen sound. Either that or it is a neutral MID vowel, a schwa in effect, when it is not the focus of the phrase.

    My experience only, perhaps.

  16. j said,

    March 15, 2017 @ 11:57 pm

    @Joyce Melton: interesting. I also have the pin-pen merger, but for me the first vowel in dissent is the same as that in descent (when I speak quickly), which is the same as the pin/pen vowel. If I take pains I can give separate vowels to pin and pen, and the same occurs when I take pains to distinguish dissent and descent.
    I accent the second syllable in dissent and descent both.
    But in my experience, my idiolect is often unrepresentative.

  17. RP said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 3:38 am

    I don't have the pen/pin merger, but would still probably use the same vowel (specifically, the pin vowel) for "dissent" and "descent". This is in line with Oxford Dictionaries (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/descent), and similarly for unstressed e in many other wods ("belong", "renew"). M-W (which also shows different, unmerged pronunciations fo pen and pin) likewise shows these pronunciations (e.g. for "belong" it has two variants, with the short i as the first one and a long ee as the second: \bi-ˈlȯŋ, bē-\). Specifically, for "descent" the short i vowel is the only pronunciation offered by M-W. (I realise of course that in the real world there is huge variation!).

    So basically the use of /ɪ/ here has nothing to do with the pen/pin merger.

    An interesting feature of RP is that ɪ is also used in plurals ending "es" and in past tenses. Personally I use schwa, which means that for me, "badges" and "badgers" are homophonous (since I'm a non-rhotic BrE speaker), whereas for an RP speaker the first ends /ɪz/ and the second /əz/,

  18. Sarah said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 4:25 am

    I am English and am pretty sure that for most British English speakers dissent and descent sound exactly the same. In fact, it had never occurred to me that some speakers might pronounce them differently from each other.

  19. Ray said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 4:37 am

    (I wanted to say this is a great eggcorn, but it came out as a grade A corn.)

  20. ngage92 said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 8:37 am

    Also I think, at least as far as music, it's the album that drops not the artist. So, "Beyonce's new surprise album dropped yesterday" but not "Beyonce dropped her surprise new album yesterday". The latter sounds unidiomatic to me.

  21. Alon Lischinsky said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 9:02 am

    @Sarah: I am English and am pretty sure that for most British English speakers dissent and descent sound exactly the same.

    the OED only has an updated entry for descent, which gives the pronunciation of the first syllable as in free variation between /ɪ/ (the KIT vowel) and /ə/ (the COMMA vowel). The older entry for dissent only lists the KIT pronunciation.

  22. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 9:54 am

    Some time in the 80's there was a campaign which tried to exploit the ambiguity of 'drop', urging the UK to 'drop the bomb', where 'drop' meant 'abandon'. It was very confusing.

  23. Ellen K. said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 10:18 am


    I wasn't even addressing the pronunciation of descend and dissent, nor the pin/pen merger. Which, by the way, I don't have.

    However, the pronunciation of the first syllable of descend(ing) and dissent(ing) has nothing to do with the pin/pen merger, since there is no N or other nasal following the vowel. It's a simple case of it being an unstressed syllable. And in the second syllable so far as I know these have the same vowel for everyone, so the pin/pen merger won't have any effect, as far as them sounding alike or not.

  24. Ellen K. said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 10:21 am

    P.S. Nor was I addressed the word descent at all (which doesn't even have an -ING form).

  25. Dan Lufkin said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 10:36 am

    Among the equine set, "drop" means "give birth to" and is used for humans as well as horses. A friend of mine once said to her sister, "1985 — That was the year you dropped Carlie." Everyone present knew what she meant.

  26. Ellen K. said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 10:43 am

    Perhaps "descending" for "dissenting" is, at least some of the time, a cupertino.

    "Descent" and "dissent" are homophonous, or practically so. So if a person mixes them up and uses "descent", for "dissent", and then adds -ing, they get something that's not a word, "descenting", and a spell check correction might easily lead to descending.

    For "descenting" my spell check offers "descanting" for it's first suggestion, and "descending" for it's second.

  27. Alex said,

    March 16, 2017 @ 2:25 pm

    @Bloix I work for a legislature in the US. In our internal jargon, we use "drop" to mean that the bill has been submitted. I believe the origin of this is that the US Congress has a hopper into which bills are dropped. However, we are conscious that this is not the conventional meaning of "drop" in the wider community, so we try not to use it around Muggles. As far as I can tell, this usage far pre-dates the album release sense of "drop."

  28. Mark S said,

    March 17, 2017 @ 3:35 am

    While we're on eggcorns, I'll note that my bus service was cancelled for one day recently because of "inclimate weather".

  29. Philip John Anderson said,

    March 17, 2017 @ 8:38 am

    @David Marjanović. The writer uses the name Analogue (sic) and writes about tea, so is probably British :-)

  30. Bloix said,

    March 17, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

    Alex – thank you! I didn't know that at all. After reading your comment, I did some googling and I found the "dropped in the hopper" expression. It seems to mean what happens when a bill passes out of committee and is "dropped" at the speaker's desk as the next step toward a vote on the floor. Is that how you use it?

  31. ajay said,

    March 20, 2017 @ 6:25 am

    Joseph is unanimously chosen with no descending votes from Pharaoh's advisors.

    Well, naturally. Votes against him would have been ascending votes, since it's well-established in the Bible that Egypt is downhill from Canaan:
    "“God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes."

  32. ajay said,

    March 20, 2017 @ 6:26 am

    I'll note that my bus service was cancelled for one day recently because of "inclimate weather".

    The sort of weather than doesn't make you feel inclimed to do any work.

  33. zbs said,

    March 23, 2017 @ 10:16 am

    Gwen Katz:

    I'm pretty sure the origin of "drop" is "drop a record onto a turntable."

    As, for example, with 45s in old jukeboxes. Then there is also the needle dropping onto the record. And in house music context, there is also the "drop" of the DJ or producer introducing a bass or rhythmic device often only previously suggested.

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