The Dummies guide to Zef

Johannesburg - South Africa has a new export product: zef.

After an estimated half-a-million people worldwide watched the music video Zefside of the Cape rap group Die Antwoord on YouTube, there was a sudden scramble and fervent googling to determine what exactly zef is.

And although zef is truly South African, there is anything but consensus about what zef means these days.

Even the origin of zef is unclear. Over the past week Beeld has done wide research regarding the origin of the word and what it means today.

The word is presumably derived from a car which was quite popular in South Africa until the early 1970s: the Ford Zephyr.

The Zephyr later became a favourite among owners who liked to soup-up their engines and add fat tyres with shiny rims.

With these souped-up Zephyrs, men would dice and wheel spin down the streets late at night. People from that era say these were mostly rough guys - real zefs.

Singer and author Koos Kombuis describes zef as a word from his childhood which means common.

Zef takes guts

"These days it's not necessarily negative. I like being common. It's like wearing high heels with a tracksuit. Being truly zef takes guts."

Die Antwoord themselves describe the word zef as the ultimate South African style.

The Afrikaans rapper Snotkop, aka. Francois Henning, feels everything that's zef today has it's origin in the 1980s. He also agrees that it doesn't only have negative connotations.

He points to blue eyeliner, bleached hair, sweat bands and cars with overly powerful sound systems.

"The word gives you a mental picture of what it means and is perfect for what it means. This zef is cool."

Singer Jack Parow, aka Zander Tyler, says the word originated decades ago.

"In the Cape we've been talking like that for jarre and jarre [many years], since I can remember. Both young and old use it."

Comedian Leon Schuster's children had to learn the word from their dad over the past weekend. "It's an old word which has become brand new again. But you only hear it in Afrikaans," he said.

Dr Frikkie Lombard, editor-in-chief of the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT), says the word zef describes what was considered kitsch back in the day, and has been reborn to mean nouveau riche.

"Thus if something is zef, it means it's something which is usually considered to be common, but nowadays has credibility."

Zef lingo:

Brannewynvlekke – small dents and scratches on a car
Ching – money
Loodkettie – gun
Darkies – sunglasses
Vroetelvarkie – a sugar daddy
Karate-water – brandy
Graft – working or place of employment
Sponskind – a softie
Pyle – cigarettes
Source: www.watkykjy.com
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