Written by S, h, a, e, , n, e, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . ( CNN ) — If you’re like most people, the first time you encountered Yassify was at a bar.
If you know your electronica, you probably already know that the phrase “Yassify” is actually meant to be pronounced “wazzify,” as in “wazzify.” What many people fail to realize is that the phrase has been taken out of context — and filled with context, because the idea is not “Yassify” as in “you’re annoying,” it’s “yassify” as in “your hair reminds me of Joseph freaking Goebbels.” (Guess what? “wazzify” has been used in the past, too.)
What we now think of as the Yassify chant is actually derived from a David Bowie song, “Rebel Rebel,” sung in the early- to mid-1970s.
The song’s chorus includes the following verse: “She was singing to me / It’s hard to love you / ‘Cause you’re such a zealophobe / So it’s no wonder you’re a damp clam / We can only beg you to come out.”
Related: ‘Yassify’ Memes Are Making the World Feels Feelawful
S, a cosplayer and a big Bowie fan, says he got the idea to Yassify Bowie’s words, sans pun, last year.
“When I first heard ‘Rebel Rebel,’ I thought it was such a funny title,” S, who goes by Ben the Yassifyster online, says. “When I saw that it was originally a David Bowie song, I immediately started recording and laughing through it, and then tweeting out ‘I YASSIFY GIVE ME A HUMAN,’ and then [using] that video to rally some support for the campaign to get him to the UN.”
It wasn’t until a Yassify tweet went viral, however, that S started getting replies such as: “When were you and [David] Bowie in high school?” “Dude your [product] is gonna affect us so many ways.”
“It was a fun and successful campaign and I’m pleased that my Yassify persona has become somewhat ubiquitous,” S, who has about 5,000 followers on Twitter, says.
This not-so-subtle branding of Yassify inspired a number of memes referencing the piece of slang. Before long, folks were finding ways to incorporate the term in their own work, including director of photography Chris Wiesenfeld, who posted a funny little clip on Instagram of Yassify capturing himself behind the lens while getting ready for the 2018 Oscars. (Also in the clip is Wiesenfeld’s question to himself as the camera shifts over: “How am I going to do this?”)
The effect of such viral images is sometimes confusing. You see the term “yassify” in images like this — then you think “wow, my hair is really yassified” — but then you realize, “Omigod, I forgot about all the Yassify memes!”
“Getting older people to use Yassify doesn’t mean that we’ve successfully created the slang,” S says. “It’s been around since the ’70s, it’s a hashtag, but sometimes people write it for themselves and I think people now just relate to it and are using it to refer to themselves — and their hair. Which is such a stupid thing to be looking for. I wish people just saw the subtext.”