“Jonestown” As Slang

Just as “drinking the Kool-Aid” has taken firm root within American slang, so the word “Jonestown” itself has acquired up new meanings and spawned new phrases.

The Urban Dictionary offers four definitions of “Jonestown” – including two with a lower case “j” – but only two have direct reference to the Peoples Temple community in Guyana. (Warning: The first of the definitions at this site is sexually explicit.)

One online dictionary defined the term “Jonestown defense” as a “defense against a corporate takeover in the form of a poison pill so strong that it threatens the survivability of the target company.”

In addition, the use of “Jonestown” as a verb has entered the lexicon of the sports world, even if a precise meaning is unclear. “Greg would seal the game with an arching run and a try to Jonestown to finish off the scoring 4-3,” one blogger wrote in a review of a competitive touch football league in Singapore. “Without Iverson trying to Jonestown they lose about, say, 15% of the craziness,” a commentator on the National Basketball Association wrote. When one poster on SportsInferno, a Detroit area sports blog, wrote that his office “must want to get some production out of me today,”  a respondent replied “or they’re trying to Jonestown your ass.”