[Ads-l] proleptic "toast"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jun 20 17:49:52 UTC 2023

There’s a related sense in U.S. football. A defensive back for the N. Y. Giants back in the ‘80s, Elvis Patterson, was known semi-affectionately as “Toast” because he was so often burned (by the receiver he was trying unsuccessfully to cover).  Don’t know how long that term has been in circulation, certainly not as long as “You’re toast”, but it’s slight different since there’s an implicit reference to the notion of being burned by the receiver.   

Let’s see…yup, he earned a wiki entry, no doubt because of the nickname:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Patterson <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Patterson>


> On Jun 20, 2023, at 12:54 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> For my Wall Street Journal column, I'm doing some research on "toast"
> defined thusly by OED3 (Mar. 2003 draft addition):
> ---
>  colloquial (originally U.S.). A person or thing that is defunct, dead,
> finished, in serious trouble, etc. Frequently in proleptic use, esp. in
> _you're_ (also _I'm_, _we're_, etc.) _toast_: you (I, we, etc.) will soon
> be dead, in trouble, etc. Cf. _history_ n.
> The lines in quot. 1983   do not in fact appear in the U.S. film
> _Ghostbusters_ as released in 1985 [sic -- it was 1984], since a
> considerable amount of the dialogue is ad-libbed. The actual words spoken
> by Venkman (played by Bill Murray) as he prepares to fire a laser-type
> weapon, are, 'This chick is toast'; this is probably the origin of the
> proleptic construction which has gained particular currency.
> 1983   D. Aykroyd & H. Ramis Ghostbusters (film script, third draft) 123
> Venkman..: Okay. That's it! I'm gonna turn this guy into toast.
> 1985   Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald 5 May b2/2   Shake, Fedya..because
> you're toast!
> [etc.]
> ---
> I'm looking for early non-"Ghostbusters" uses of "toast" in the proleptic
> fashion. So far, the earliest I've found in print (not referring to the
> movie dialogue) is this from Sept. '84:
> ---
> https://archive.org/details/KSULKSColl198485V91N2345/page/n5/mode/1up
> Kansas State Collegian, Sept. 27, 1984, p. 6 (advt.)
> The Avalon. [...] Fri. Toga Toga Toga. Put on your toga and come party
> Greek style. [...]
> The emperor Party-us Maximus has decreed: "Every warrior shall show up in a
> toga, or at the stroke of midnight Friday -- you're toast!"
> ---
> Since "Ghostbusters" was released in June '84, that fits the timeline of
> the movie introducing the usage into the mainstream. Here's the 1985
> example cited in the OED entry:
> https://www.newspapers.com/article/omaha-world-herald-youre-toast/126774966/
> "Toast" then shows up in Connie Eble's UNC slang lists in '86 (as noted by
> GDoS), and it went into wider circulation after that. Can anyone track down
> other early examples?
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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