The “Z” Word

Is there an outright ban in using the word, “zombie” to refer to zombies in literature, television, and movies? While reading Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, he never refers the zombies as zombies. There’s actually a small quote acknowledging this fact stating, “Gary didn’t have much sympathy for the dead, a.k.a. the ‘squares,’ the ‘suckers,’ and the ‘saps.’ “(30). The following page goes on to talk about how the zombies were once people and had their lives ripped away from them, only to become more carriers for the zombie disease. Maybe this explains why the term “zombie” is not being used; as it could have become a derogatory term, being disrespectful to the deceased. On the other hand, given the other terms mentioned that the character refers to the zombies as, I doubt that this is the case. Whitehead is not even the only writer that avoids their characters saying “zombie” in their book or show. The shows, The Walking Dead  and ZNation refers to zombies as “walkers” and “puppies and kittens” respectively, avoiding the use of the word, zombie throughout each series.

Because this was the case for two major television shows, I wanted to see if the word, zombie was trademarked. I did not think that one could just trademark a common phrase (common monster name) as it would be just to difficult to enforce. The word is just used too far often, more now than ever due to the rise of zombie based movies and video games. Looking at Wikipedia’s list of zombie games, you can see that at least fifty five zombie games were made between 2010 to the present alone. This does not count all the zombie games ever made nor does it include any zombie related movie or television series. In terms of video games, out of those that I have played, most use the term zombie from time to time. The Left 4 Dead series uses the word a few times and so does the Dead Rising series. So even though there are trademarks , it is clearly not enforced (unless each and every company or person is able to gain permission to use the word) enough to make using the word zombie an issue.  Maybe when authors use alternatives to “zombie” they are trying to stand out from the rest of zombie pop-culture.  Yet if that was the case, you would think the word zombie would come in at least once. I don’t believe that it is necessary to use those authors to use the word zombie, but since this is the zombie genre, you would think that people would not be afraid to use the “z-word” every once in a while.

I’m not saying that this is a bad thing and I do enjoy seeing all of the alternative phrases author’s come up with (puppies and kittens especially as that is pretty funny in my mind), but it just feels like “zombie” has just become a taboo in the zombie genre. It could be that I simply have not read enough zombie thrillers or watched enough zombie movies to make this claim; however, I would like to ask whomever is reading this one question. Has anyone else questioned why some authors refuse to use the word zombie when they are writing a book or movie on zombies?

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