be toast

From Gail Collins’s NYT op-ed column on the 18th, “The Cheney in Waiting”:

So what do you think Wyoming wants? Somebody younger? [Liz] Cheney is 46, and apparently planning on suggesting — in the most discreet way possible — that [incumbent Senator Mike] Enzi is toast at 69. Since the average age of the current Senate is around 62, however, he is barely brown around the edges.

Collins is taking the slang idiom be toast and playing with it — treating being toast as the end-stage or completion of the process of doom or (metaphorical) death, so that she can refer to earlier stages of the process as analogous to earlier stages of toasting. Cute.

Some glosses for the slang idiom (to) be toast, from Dictionary.com:

[Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, 2010] Slang. to be doomed, ruined, or in trouble: If you’re late to work again, you’re toast!

[Richard A. Spears, Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions, 4th ed., 2007]  done for:  If you don’t get here in twenty minutes, you’re toast.

[Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 2003]  Informal to face certain destruction or defeat

[Denis Howe, The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, 2010] jargon Any completely inoperable system or component, especially one that has just crashed and burned: “Uh, oh … I think the serial board is toast.”

Some of these appear to treat be toast as an adjective, some as a noun. And they differ in how far along to ruin or (metaphorical) death someone or something is when it’s toast.

Green’s Dictionary of Slang categorizes it as an adjective and takes it back to 1983:

toast adj.
1 facing serious problems; esp. in phr. you’re toast.
– 1983 Aykroyd & Ramis Ghostbusters [film script] This chick is TOAST!
– 1986 Eble Campus Sl. Mar. 10: toast – victim of misfortune: I broke the TV. I’m toast!
– 1990 Eble Campus Sl. Apr.
– 1996 A. Heckerling Clueless [film script] Cher: Did you get your report card? Dionne: Yeah. I’m toast. How’d you do?
– 1999 K. Sampson Powder 366: If you have got one single piece of ass in there, your fuckin’ ass is toast!
– 2004 P. Howard PS. I Scored the Bridesmaids 233: I don’t worry about him. The goy’s focking toast.

2 (US campus) (also french toast) tipsy or hungover. [Eble cites from 1989, 1993]

3 dead.
– 2004 P. Howard PS. I Scored the Bridesmaids 43: Scooby’s more than stunned. He’s toast.

(Sense 3 is a natural extension of sense 1.)

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