In "Night of the Living Dead," the movie which gave us the modern conception of zombie, how many times is the word "zombie" uttered?
A Few Facts
Actors and theater-types are notoriously superstitious. You've probably heard the term "break a leg" used in lieu of "good luck" because saying "good luck" is actually bad luck.
Similarly, many theater-types will never utter the word "Macbeth" backstage, rather referring to it as "The Scottish Play." Supposedly the witches chant in the beginning of "Macbeth" is an actual witches chant, making the entire play cursed, and to reference it is to literally curse yourself.
A Longer Answer
"Zombie" was never a term that Romero used in "Night of the Living Dead." How exactly it came to be applied to Romero's iconic creations would be the subject of a fascinating linguistics dissertation. It was only used once in the sequel "Dawn of the Dead" - by that time Romero had learned the term society had decided to apply to his creations. The term most commonly used in the original film was "ghoul" but a wide variety of euphemisms like "them," "those things," and my particular favorite, "murder-happy characters" were used by the characters in the film.
Who Gives a Shit?
Well, I'll tell you who gives a shit for a start: zombie authors, for one. All walks of life have their superstitions and traditions. Using wooden bats and growing out your beard for the playoffs are two examples for baseball players. Sure, not every guy grows out his beard, but it's a pretty common practice.
And, similarly, it's a pretty common practice for zombie authors to never use the z-word in their books. They do it partially as a tribute to Romero, and partially as just an acknowledgement that there is some actual goddamn tradition in this field. For a master course in z-word (or as they call it "zed-word") avoidance, go back and watch "Shaun of the Dead." In fact, you may be surprised how many authors follow this practice and you never even noticed.
So...Wait. Who Gives a Shit Again?
I. Am. So. Fucking. Tired.
Of hearing this fucking hipster bullshit argument again and again, over and over, from people who don't know the difference between "Dead Alive" and "Death Becomes Her" that it's sooooooo fucking stupid that nobody in "The Walking Dead" ever says "zombie."
"Why don't they just call 'em zombies. Eh hurk eh hurk eh hurk," such people will say, I assume before going to take a swim in their cement ponds.
Look, Robert Kirkman and I have differences. There are things, you know, I disagree with in terms of the path of his show. But let me tell you shitheads something:
Robert Kirkman knows what the fuck he's doing.
He obviously loves the genre. He's obviously contributed greatly to it. And he has obviously decided to take one of our most cherished traditions and apply it to his work. The fact that you don't know enough about the zombie genre to recognize what he's doing tells me all I need to know right there. And Greg Nicotero and all those guys behind the scenes at the show, obviously also know their heads from their assholes and have decided to continue this fairly well fucking documented tradition as well.
Does That Mean I'm an Asshole?
Okay, so, first of all, not everyone does follow the "no z-word" rule. For one thing, there are a lot of younger authors out there who are starting to get their zombie educations second-and-third hand. Fifteen, twenty years ago, all we really had was The Holy Trilogy, a smattering of movies, and a scant handful of books, mostly short story collections.
And even the people who were around in that era don't universally follow the rule. Some of my favorite authors throw "zombie" around like it's going out of business.
So to clarify: you're not an asshole for not using the "no z-word" rule. You're not even an asshole for not knowing about it until now. But if having read this blogpost, you ever make the argument that "they should just call 'em zombies, not walkers, we know what they are, he-hyuk" then you are a bigger asshole than Harry Cooper.
Here endeth the lesson.