Bill Murray Changed The English Language With One Line In Ghostbusters

An improvised line from Bill Murray in Ghostbusters helped create an English idiom.

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

bill murray ghostbusters
Bill Murray delivering the “This chick is toast” line in Ghostbusters (1984)

Bill Murray changed the English language forever when he ad-libbed the words, “This chick is toast,” in 1984’s Ghostbusters. The actor’s improv didn’t just become a quotable line from the movie. It also turned “toast” into an idiom that is still used almost 40 years later.

Referring to someone who is doomed as “toast” was traced to the scene in which the famed parapsychologists battle Gozer.

In the original script, in which Gozer was a man, Doctor Peter Venkman was supposed to say, “That’s it! I’m gonna turn this guy into toast.” However, by the time the scene was shot, the human form of Gozer was played by model Slavitza Jovan.

Bill Murray improvised various lines, including “This chick is toast,” which made it to the movie’s final cut.

Gozer the Gozerian

The Oxford English Dictionary has acknowledged Bill Murray’s improvised line as the earliest documented instance of “toast” being used with its contemporary meaning. According to the Wall Street Journal, this usage is categorized as “proleptic” since it employs a figure of speech wherein a future state is portrayed as already happening.

Consequently, phrases like “You’re toast” joined the ranks of other proleptic expressions like “You’re dead” or “You’re history.” Searches conducted on various media databases confirmed the phrase gained popularity only after the success of Bill Murray’s Ghostbusters in 1984.

That September, the San Francisco Chronicle covered an election rally where a student referred to a candidate as “toast.”

However, “toast” first took on a sinister meaning in the late 19th century when “to have someone on toast” meant having a person at one’s mercy. In Rudyard Kipling’s 1899 novel Stalky & Co., which revolves around a British boarding school for boys, a student says, “He thought he had us on toast,” referring to a teacher attempting to discipline the boys for misbehaving.

Bill Murray caddyshack
Bill Murray in Caddyshack (1980)

Interestingly, Ghostbusters wasn’t the only movie where Bill Murray spontaneously delivered memorable lines. The actor also improvised a scene in Caddyshack where he portrayed groundskeeper Carl Spackler. But none of the dialogue from that particular scene made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary.

How Bill Murray Is Doing Now

Years later from his dictionary defining performance, Bill Murray is still a huge star, but one under fire. However, director Wes Anderson says that the allegations against his longstanding collaborator Bill Murray will not impact their professional relationship as the actor is “like family” to him. The 54-year-old filmmaker made the comments before the premiere of his latest film Asteroid City, which does not feature the Ghostbusters star.

Bill Murray was initially slated to portray a motel manager in Asteroid City. However, he had to withdraw from the project after contracting Covid-19. Steve Carell replaced him.

Steve Carell replacing Bill Murray in Asteroid City

“The movie was a jigsaw puzzle of actors’ schedules, so we couldn’t wait. We were extremely lucky that Steve Carell said yes—and was perfect in the part.”

Wes Anderson in The New Yorker

When Bill Murray recovered from COVID, even though he’d already been replaced, he went to Spain, where Wes Anderson was filming with Steve Carell. Bill Murray did still make it into Asteroid City in a much smaller cameo role.

Wes Anderson eventually came up with a smaller role for Murray, who now appears in a retro promotional trailer for the film where he plays, appropriately, an actor cut from the film.

Bill Murray in Asteroid City (sort of)
The Allegations Against Bill Murray

In April 2022, the production of Aziz Ansari’s feature film Being Mortal came to a halt indefinitely when a female crew member accused Murray of kissing her while wearing a mask.

In October 2022, it was disclosed that Murray had settled the complaint by paying $100,000. The actor claimed that his actions were meant “in jest,” while the woman said she was deeply disturbed by them. Bill Murray addressed the allegation in an interview with CNBC.

“I did something I thought was funny and it wasn’t taken that way. As of now we are talking and we are trying to make peace with each other. We are both professionals, we like each others’ work, we like each other I think and if we can’t really get along and trust each other there’s no point in going further working together or making the movie as well. It’s been quite an education for me.”

Bill Murray

Explaining the stop in the movie’s production Bill Murray says: “The movie studio wanted to do the right thing, so they wanted to check it all out and investigate it, and so they stopped the production. It’s been quite an education for me.”