Saturday, April 11, 2009


(image: cover of Zombies album, from Decca Records)

Here's the first definition of "zombie" from the OED online:

1. 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.

The second definition, the figurative one referring to seemingly lifeless persons or Hollywood versions of zombies, is pegged to H.L. Mencken in 1936, when he complained in print that the only roles Hollywood had for non-Caucasian actors were for "zombies." Things have certainly improved for Black, women, Asian-American ( et al.) actors--but how much?

But I digress, as almost always.

Quarter to Five

He works as a zombie from 9 to 5. He climbs
into a catatonic state and performs duties
as are assigned to him. He's under the spell
of employment. (It could be worse.) His
co-worker, Barton, said, "You scare me.
You look like the living dead." "Don't worry,"
he said, "I'm just behaving professionally. After
work I become vibrant and garrulous."
"But I don't get it," Barton said, "--what
job-title around here requires a person
to behave like a zombie?" "In my particular
case," said the man, "it's Chief Deputy for
Zombic Affairs." "And what is it exactly
you do?" asked Barton. "Barton," he said,
"you don't want to know." With his blank,
unnerving, but professionally appropriate
affect, he resumed his duties, for the clock
read only quarter to five.

Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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