Obesessing About Zombies Again

I know, I know: I obviously have a bit of obsession for zombies, this whole weird love-hate thing, and I’ve been thinking about them again.

Specifically, I was considering what makes a zombie? Not necessarily whether they were created via virus, human experimentation, etc – that’s a different consideration – but the actual definition of zombie. This naturally led me to my dictionary – yep, old school printed version, since I always like that as a starting place.

My old Webster’s Collegiate defines zombie thusly:

zombie, also zom-bi (ca.1871) 1. usu zombi a: the supernatural power that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body b: a will-less and speechless human in the West Indies capable only of automatic movement who is held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated 2 a: a person held to resemble the so-called walking dead; esp: AUTOMATON b: a person markedly strange in appearance or behavior 3: a mixed drink made of several kinds of rum, liqueur, and fruit juice.

Well, this definition seems to leave me two places to go (okay, three if I’d prefer to go off and drink somewhere, but that’s not really the direction I’m headed): it leads towards the traditional voodoo belief / creation of zombies, and to the person who resembles the walking dead.

Incidentally, interesting that even a dictionary – who has come a long way in trying to maintain an objective denotation rather than the very subjective first dictionary by Samuel Johnson — has to include the “so-called” part. Out of curiosity I looked up another creature, “vampire,” and it seems somewhat less doubting with the use of “… the reanimated body of a dead person believed to come from the grave at night and suck the blood of persons asleep …”

Okay, pardon the digression. So, two directions, and I guess I’m going with the second definition. The second category gathers up all the “zombies by other means” definitions, including sitting in front of a t.v. or computer screen for too long. And I guess part of the definition also deals with: so what do the walking dead look like that zombies can resemble them? Technically vampires could be the undead, like zombies, and if Hollywood is to be believed, they can be very dapper, quite Brad Pitt-ish. 🙂

I’ll try to be serious … as much as I can be considering what zombies should look like. Well, if the walking dead are just the dead, those can look quite different depending on how they died, and how long they’ve been dead. If zombies are actually just reanimated corpses, than it would stand to reason that they would likewise continue to decompose, even in an animated state. So a “fresh” zombie could look very similar to the person who just died.

That’s the other thing: how much does the zombie resemble the actual decedent? I can tell you right now, I would be unlikely to make a running super-fast type zombie, since I’m not a running, super-fast person. I’d be more of a speed-walking zombie, I think. So couldn’t this likewise give you gymnast zombies, hockey player zombies? How much of the decedent plays into the zombie? Or is it simply an outside force that animates them and whatever it is that made them a person (ie: the essence, the soul), has long since flown the coop?

What do you think? How do you define zombie, and how much of the original person remains?

Thanks for reading, and have a great, zombie-free week. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Obesessing About Zombies Again

  1. I’ve always favored the idea that a zombie is a host body to a virus, something animalistic and inhuman. I think I favor that idea because that means zombies represent no race, religion or political agenda. And yet they wear our faces and act in an inhuman matter that toy with our minds and terror. Our natural compassion towards humanity gets twisted by a mockery image of ourselves. Supernatural zombies are merely puppets to a master and therefore their drives should be that of the one controlling them through some necromantic means. At least until they break free of the control. It’s part of what makes them dull to me, because they are no longer creatures but tools to be used and discarded.

    As for appearances, decay slow or great would depend upon what the virus does to the body once it infects. I’ve contemplated the idea of an infected person carrying the virus and not showing the signs until some natural or accidental death (the sort used in The Walking Dead series) as well as the virus causing an infection that kills the host allowing it to take over operation of the body (As seen in the book World War Z). Those that are properly buried would likely arise well dressed compared to those who die in hospitals or are confined to morgues.

    • Thanks for the great suggestions on zombies – I love the perspective. Do you suppose scientific-experimentation could also work like the virus? Indeed, the supernatural zombies always seem a bit pathetic – unable to rest, just slaves for whoever reanimated them. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the comment. 🙂

      • Sure scientific experimentation could work. There are many directions you could go with this from parasite to retro virus engineered to…. nanobots that act much like a virus and turn dead bodies into cyborg versions of zombies. 😉

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