The end of October is in sight which means my third favorite holiday is around the corner, right behind Christmas and National Frog Jumping Day (which is on the 13th of May, if you were wondering). I’m talking about Halloween, the only day of the year where it’s acceptable to demand candy from strangers and dress up as nightmarish creatures for the sole purpose of scaring those around you. With all this talk of monsters and with all the buzz about the rapidly intensifying season of The Walking Dead, it seems we cannot stop zombies from invading our vernacular so we might as well come up with a few other ways to talk about them. Let’s start with the obvious:
As Robert Kirkman has pointed out on multiple occasions, the very concept of a “zombie” does not exist within the world of The Walking Dead. Meaning, the characters that live inside The Walking Dead universe have never heard of a zombie or any other cannibalistic creature that reanimates, which explains why they are so confused when their next door neighbor attempts to devour their brains out of the blue. To combat this problem, the comic book characters coin a new term for these life-deprived creatures: walkers.
Coleson Whitehead’s novel Zone One details the aftermath of a widespread zombie apocalypse and follows civilization’s attempt to rebuild itself. One of the survivors, Mark Spitz, works with a team of other “sweepers” to rid New York City of any remaining zombies. Of course, they never actually use the term “zombie,” opting instead for “stragglers.” As if these creatures were one of your distracted siblings at an amusement park, straggling behind as you run to stand in line.
Isn’t it funny how, in every zombie movie or show, everyone will be sitting around in the middle of nowhere talking peacefully about life only to have a zombie suddenly jump out of the shadows and start chomping away right when you get up to go to the bathroom, like they were just waiting for the most inconvenient time to attack you? (Is funny not the right word for that?)
4) Living Dead/Reliving/Undead
The biggest revelation in any zombie movie is that the creatures in question are, in fact, dead and not just plagued by an especially bad hangover. It makes sense, then, that there are approximately a million ways to call a zombie “not exactly dead, but not exactly alive.” Here are just a few.
This nickname has nothing to do with the special, neon-pink treats that we all find in our Easter baskets every year (and then later, around the house when we forget to eat them and they turn into rock-hard decorations that we can’t bear to throw away). No, “Peeps” is the name Scott Westerfeld gives his zombies in his appropriately titled book Peeps. When half the world becomes infected by a virus, they turn into brainless, “Parasite-Positive People,” AKA Peeps. For creatures that would take a bite out of us without a second thought, this name sounds deceivingly innocent.
6) Vitally Impaired
The zombies have voted and apparently, they prefer the term “Vitally Impaired.” At least, this is the case in Terry Pratchett’s novel Reaper Man, a science-fiction tale featuring aliens, the Grim Reaper, and a bunch of infected humans who can’t seem to decide how PC “zombie” is as a nickname.
The ladies from the upcoming film Pride & Prejudice & Zombies have a number of words used to describe their undead friends, including most notably “unmentionables.” Apparently, they were going to go with “Walkers-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named” but Warner Bros. already secured that title for their rumored production of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Zombies.
8) The Eternal Walking Nightmare
In Max Brooks’ zom-pacalypse story World War Z, everyone’s favorite undead creatures go by “Ghouls.” At least, in America. Brooks’ tale examines how countries around the world adjust to cohabiting with walkers, with each one providing their own nickname for the infected people. My favorite is China’s nickname, the Eternal Walking Nightmare. Compared to the other choices, it sounds a tad dramatic, but when you remember these “things” are mindless beasts out to devour your insides, it really puts the name into perspective. (I claim the rights to any Eternal Sunshine of the Walking Nightmare spin-offs right now.)
In Peter Clines’ Ex-People, the “plague of living death” has spread to Los Angeles where the city’s residents struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Clines provides a relatively tame name to his story’s monsters, calling them “ex-people” instead of biters, walkers, eternal walking nightmares, etc., as if hesitant to fully remove these creatures from the “humanity” umbrella.
I don’t know where I heard this one but it warrants a mention, if only to lighten up this list a bit because I wouldn’t exactly take someone seriously if they announced that there was a herd of “deadies” approaching. But maybe that’s just me.
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