GOOD

Zombies! A Word That’s Always Lurching Around

\r\n\r\nVampires get a lot of press these days, but you can't keep their undead brethren-the zombies-down.\r\n\r\nDespite lacking an air force and navy,...




Vampires get a lot of press these days, but you can't keep their undead brethren-the zombies-down.

Despite lacking an air force and navy, the zombie army is always on the march, especially in pop culture. Zombie movies include Reanimator, Shaun of the Dead, Evildead 2, Night of the Living Dead, Dead Alive, and a bazillion others. I can't keep track of all the zombie-focused humor books out there, like The Zombie Survival Guide and Zombie Haiku. Even Jane Austen isn't safe, what with the recent revision of her work called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And if President Obama needs to take the nation's mind off our metric boatload of problems, maybe he could distract us by emulating his fictional counterpart in the comic book President Evil, in which the Obamanator goes Terminator on the zombie menace.

But zombies have a hold on more than our movie screens and Presidential fantasies: zombies are used metaphorically in many ways, and the word "zombie" has a history predating the horror movies we know so well. If you don't mind the drooling and lumbering, "zombie" is a useful, specific monkey wrench in the tool box of language.

Much recent zombie lingo comes from the techie scene. Though we're used to thinking of zombies as saying "Must eat brains," when it comes to zombie cell phone networks-or botnets-zombie-ese sounds more like, "A very sexy girl. Try it now!" That artless come-on is a text message suckering you into downloading spam software that sends out the same message, until eventually all our cell phones are reduced to annoying, spammy, sleazy zombie drones. This sense of "zombie" is similar to "zombie computer," which has similarly been possessed by a spam-type, shenanigans-causing program.

The ongoing economic pickle has attracted a few zombie terms too: A zombie bank is no longer capable of lending money, as it is deeply in debt, only staying afloat through the zombie-master-like powers of the federal government. Similarly, zombie companies are, as Kate Haywood wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "...firms that generate little or no profit for their shareholders because they are unable to access the capital markets for fresh funding to help them grow out of crippling debt piles. They exist purely to serve the interests of their lenders by repaying the debt." Then there's "zombie debt"-crooked companies will buy up old debts that can't be enforced (because of bankruptcy, for example) and then try to collect. A telemarketer chortling "It's aliiiive!" is not a great way to begin the day.

Even the animal kingdom isn't zombie-free. The headline "Zombie caterpillars controlled by voodoo wasps" sounds like something I just made up, but it comes straight from the pages of New Scientist, in a story about how parasitic wasp larvae take possession of cuddly caterpillars in a very Evildead-ish fashion. Wasp larvae work a similar bad mojo on cockroaches, stinging them while keeping the bastards alive. This scary description by Nora Shultz almost makes me feel sorry for the roaches: "The cockroach sits still while the wasp's larva hatches, chews a hole into its belly, and slowly eats its living host from the inside over a period of eight days." Man, I hate when that happens.

A smattering of other meanings have lumbered across the landscape of language over the years. In World War II, Canadian draftees were referred to as zombies, playing on the unwilling nature of zombies and draftees, both of whom tend to be found in armies. Another way to make a zombie is to mix rum and fruit juice, in the case of the zombie drink. Since the thirties, "zombie" has also had the familiar meaning of "A dull, apathetic, or slow-witted person," as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it. That meaning is pretty close to the "tired person" sense, as in, "When I don't get at least 8 hours sleep, I am a zombie."

"Zombi" was the name of a snake-god worshipped by voodoo cults in West Africa and Haiti, before it came to mean a reanimated corpse. There have been several variations in meaning, all likely to give the heebie-jeebies, such as this 1872 quote: "Zombi, a phantom or a ghost, not unfrequently heard in the Southern States in nurseries and among the servants." The OED also has entries for "zombify," "zombified," and "zombification." I had never seen zombied before, but it's a synonym for zombified that's been used for awhile and continues to be. This 1972 use might be my favorite sentence I've quoted this year: "Humpy is frankly idiotic, re-succumbing to Nanny's world like a zombied dachshund." Poor Humpy.

So, whether a zombie is eating your brain, or your cell phone's brain, or your bank's autonomy, don't bother struggling against the undead menace. Just pour yourself a zombie, secure in the knowledge that even the cockroaches who will inherit the earth aren't immune.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health