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Zef Prost Poshlost

My investigations into Die Antwoord led me once again to the topic of vulgarity.

Die Antwoord claim to sing Zef, which turns out to be an intrinsic South African kind of poor-white Afrikaans-inspired vulgar Southern-Cape slang and style that didn’t yet have a name when I lived there and wasn’t yet as evolved as it is now.

But Die Antwoord are not authentic: they are conceptual Zef artists, not genuine Zefs. They are clever intellectual performers, as I said, local Ali G’s making Zef music for money.

“Zef”, apparently, may stem from the abbreviated name for a Ford Zephyr, made in England, that my parents once owned, so uncool that it’s now cool.

Another Zef South African rapper Jack Parow sings a song called “Cooler as Ekke” (Cooler than Me). Here are some of the lyrics, (translated from Afrikaans, in which it’s much snappier):

I’m America, You’re Iraq

I’m a Bic pen, you’re a Mont Blanc

I’m original, you’ve been copied

I’m a flash drive, you’re a floppy

You think you’re cooler than me

You think you’re cooler than me


I drink Klipdrif, you drink Peroni

You’ve friends in Sweden, I’ve friends in Benoni

? etc

Benoni is an unfashionable town in what was the Transvaal. You get the picture. I haven’t tried to get the tone, which would be more like “I is America, You’se Iraq,” and more street-talk than my translation.

Of Zef, Parow says: ?It’s kind of like Posh, but the opposite of Posh. ?

Good definition.

There are many gradations of vulgarity and commonness.

South African Jewish immigrants looked down on prost which is a kind of crass bad-taste uneducated commonness.

Russians battled against poshlost which, as best I can tell, is a kind of middlebrow pretentious antivulgarity that is vulgar itself. From Wikipedia

Poshlust, Nabokov explained, “is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive” (Nabokov 1944, p. 70). Nabokov (1973) also listed

“Corny trash, vulgar clich?s, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic and dishonest pseudo-literature?these are obvious examples. Now, if we want to pin down poshlost in contemporary writing we must look for it in Freudian symbolism, moth-eaten mythologies, social comment, humanistic messages, political allegories, overconcern with class or race, and the journalistic generalities we all know.”

I own up to a certain admiration for vulgarity if its genuine. Or perhaps, to be precise, it’s not so much that I’m in favor of being vulgar as I am anti-anti-vulgar, as some people in the Fifties would define themselves not so much as Communists but as anti-anti-Communists. I’m anti-anti-religious too.

Genuine vulgarity is probably a good thing, kind of real energy that keeps people going.

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