In recent years, a number of expressions which find their origin in the Jonestown tragedy have taken root in slang and American urban culture.
The single word “Jonestown” used as slang meaning “final ending” appeared in the 2015 Amy Schumer movie Trainwreck. As one review quoted the line, “There’s a collection of scenes in the middle of the movie tightly edited to illustrate her character Amy’s falling in love with Aaron (Bill Hader). After a few saccharine sequences, Amy says in voiceover, ‘I hope this love montage ends like Jonestown.’”
Like the more familiar phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid,” slang usage of the word “Jonestown” – either upper case or lower case – has taken on numerous meanings, some of which are described here.
A phrase which has gained common parlance in recent years is “doing a Jonestown.” Among its uses:
In 2002, a discussion group on ever-more-potent chile peppers led with a rhetorical question, “So is food becoming so unpalatable we need to set our tongues on fire first? Are our taste buds doing a Jonestown or what?”
In 2012, an Australian article reporting on a no-confidence vote of the head of the Health Service Union quoted her as saying that the union was “doing a Jonestown” on her.
Laura Johnston Kohl recently reported a person from Latin America as saying that the expression has become the equivalent of “going postal,” a phrase with a unique origin in the United States.