zombie (was PIssing in the Wind, revenant)
Posted: 04 April 2017 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Here in Rightpondia it was used only yesterday by a whole raft of newspapers and websites to report research on bones excavated at a deserted medieval village in Yorkshire, which appears to show that the corpses of at least ten people from that community were dismembered, decapitated and burnt post-mortem, suggesting strongly that they were so treated to prevent them ‘walking’ and harming the living. (Just Googling ‘Wharram Percy + revenants’ will bring them up. This is perhaps the best report if you want to read about it.)

In this case, I for one can’t think of another word that would have properly fitted the bill. We don’t know exactly in what form medieval Yorkshire feared the dead were going to return - as vampires? ghosts? animated corpses analogous to zombies? (Both The Times and the Telegraph, to their shame, used the word ‘zombie’, without qualification, which is certainly not justifiable - the zombie is a very culturally-specific phenomenon.)

It’s perfectly familiar to me, but then folk belief and mythology are long-standing interests of mine.

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Posted: 13 April 2017 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 04 April 2017 11:01 AM

the zombie is a very culturally-specific phenomenon.

If only this were still the case. I’m currently as sick of zombies as I was sick of vampires a few years back when the Twilight series was at the height of its popularity. I strongly suspect that I’ll be sick of comic-book superheroes next.

Ugh. I sound much older than I am, and not in a good way.

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Posted: 14 April 2017 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Splitting the thread

NotThatGuy - 13 April 2017 08:13 AM

Syntinen Laulu - 04 April 2017 11:01 AM
the zombie is a very culturally-specific phenomenon.

If only this were still the case.

Yes, the term has its origins in a very specific West Indian cultural phenomenon, but since the 1970s the word has spread far beyond its roots. The OED entry is quite illustrative. It’s an older entry that has not been thoroughly revised, but it does have recent additions. The original sense of zombie is:

In the West Indies and southern states of America, a soulless corpse said to have been revived by witchcraft; formerly, the name of a snake-deity in voodoo cults of or deriving from West Africa and Haiti.
1819 R. Southey Hist. Brazil III. xxxi. 24 Zombi, the title whereby he [chief of Brazilian natives] was called, is the name for the Deity, in the Angolan tongue… NZambi is the word for Deity.
1872 Schele de Vere Americanisms 138 Zombi, a phantom or a ghost, not unfrequently heard in the Southern States in nurseries and among the servants.
[...]
1979 J. Rhys Smile Please 30 Zombies were black shapeless things. They could get through a locked door and you heard them walking up to your bed. You didn’t see them, you felt their hairy hands round your throat.
1984 Times 26 Jan. 12/6 A zombie, as every schoolboy knows, is a person who has been killed and raised from the dead by sinister voodoo priests called bocors.

So this sense is quite old, and is still very much in use.

But the entry has these draft additions from December 2016:

In horror films, books, etc.: a reanimated corpse, typically portrayed as a creature capable of movement but not rational thought, with an insatiable hunger for human flesh or brains. Also occasionally in extended use with reference to similar mindless creatures.
Now the most common sense.
1970 Monthly Film Bull. Jan. 8/2 The countryside is overrun with these murderous zombies—evidently corpses revived by radiation from a rocket abortively shot to Venus.
1984 T. C. Boyle Budding Prospects (1985) i. i. 4, I gave the tube a rueful glance—zombies in white-face drifted across the screen, masticating bratwurstlike strings of human intestine.
1996 St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch (Nexis) 14 June e3 The zombies can only by killed by disgusting, brain-spattering blows to the head.
2011 FourFourTwo Oct. 28/4 What’s that lurking in the shadows? A ghoul? A goblin? A flesh-eating zombie?

As the dictionary notes, this sense has taken over the word and divorced it from its West Indian roots. Instead, this newer sense takes as its origin the archetype presented in George Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. (Not unlike vampire, which in modern use is based on the Bram Stoker archetype, not on any of the folkloric traditions—vampires “exist” in many cultures, but none, not even the Romanian one, is very close to what Stoker created.) The word zombie has also become productive, referring to a variety of things that operate without volition or after they should be dead. The OED has a computing sense (added in 2006), and linguist Arnold Zwicky coined the term zombie rules, to refer to grammatical prescriptions that continue even though they have no basis in practice, like the split infinitive rule.

[ Edited: 14 April 2017 04:13 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 14 April 2017 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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NotThatGuy - 13 April 2017 08:13 AM

Syntinen Laulu - 04 April 2017 11:01 AM
the zombie is a very culturally-specific phenomenon.

If only this were still the case. I’m currently as sick of zombies as I was sick of vampires a few years back when the Twilight series was at the height of its popularity. I strongly suspect that I’ll be sick of comic-book superheroes next.

Ugh. I sound much older than I am, and not in a good way.

I hear you. Zombies were effective fear-inducers for years in literature and the movies with such directors as Tourneur in the 40s and Romero and Fulci in the 70s. Since that time though they are more likely to induce yawns rather than fear, at least in me. Sometimes, very rarely, you’ll come across a new and imaginative twist on the zombie in films such as It Follows but other than that the field is fallow and barren.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 03:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Shaun of the Dead

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Posted: 15 April 2017 03:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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You beat me to it, Dave.

I love that film, but as a folklore geek I can’t help but notice that Pegg & Co had their zombies ‘reproduce’ by biting live humans, which of course is the traditional method for vampires not zombies. (Then again, I don’t really do zombie films, so for all I know the ‘you’ll become one if one bites you’ trope was transferred to zombies many films previously.)

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Posted: 15 April 2017 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’m not an expert on the zombie oeuvre either, so I can’t tell you when it arose, but I don’t think the “zombie virus” motif is original to Pegg & Co’s movie.

But yes, the zombie bite is a cross-fertilization from the vampire and werewolf genres. Another example of how the zombies in pop culture have mutated away from their Caribbean folkloric origins.

[ Edited: 15 April 2017 04:30 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 15 April 2017 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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At the risk of being Capt. Obvious, I suspect the whole violent-derangement-transmitted-by-bite trope ultimately derives from rabies.

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Posted: 15 April 2017 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Dr. Techie - 15 April 2017 09:21 AM

At the risk of being Capt. Obvious, I suspect the whole violent-derangement-transmitted-by-bite trope ultimately derives from rabies.

Indeed. In fact several zombie/vampire movies make the connection plain, such as Rabid, 1977, in which people with rabies turn suddenly mad and start biting and sucking the blood of others and the I Am Legend remake of 2007 where the hero specifically compares with rabies a virus turning people into zombies.

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