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Judge John Hodgman on Paranormal Taxonomy

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Liz writes: I believe that the Loch Ness Monster and the Chupacabra are monsters, but ghosts are not. My friend believes that because ghosts are undead, they should be considered monsters. Please put this dispute to rest.

‘‘Monster’’ has connoted enormity and a certain savage verve since the 14th century, whereas ‘‘ghost’’ connotes a kind of sad floating around in corners. As no less an authority than Loren Coleman, director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Me., put it: ‘‘Ghosts are not monsters. ‘Monsters’ are alive and may be biological.’’ This posits the possibility that monsters can become ghosts and that the woods of the Pacific Northwest are haunted by spectral Bigfoots. But that awesome image is as close as your friend is going to get to erasing the meaning of words and paranormal taxonomy in my court.

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