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Hella is a slang intensifier word associated with Northern California, and used in the United States and Canada. It is a contraction of the phrase "hell of a lot [of]".

It often appears in place of the words "really", "a lot", "totally", "very", and, in some cases, "yes". Whereas hell of a is generally used with a noun, according to linguist Pamela Munro, hella is primarily used to modify an adjective such as "good."[1] [2]

According to lexicographer Allan A. Metcalf, the word is a marker of Northern California dialect, as well as the similar word "hecka".[3] According to Colleen Cotter, "Southern Californians know the term ... but rarely use it." Sometimes the term grippa is used to mock "NorCal" dialect, with the actual meaning being the opposite of hella.[4] A commentator at UC Davis notes that using the term in the presence of "SoCalers" can elicit a range of extreme reactions.[5]

Contents

Earliest studies of the term

By 1993, Mary Bucholtz, a linguist at the University of California, Santa Barbara collated materials from an urban high school in the Bay Area, and found that hella was "used among Bay Area (and more specifically Oakland, CA) youth of all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds and both genders". It is a synonym of the slang meaning of wicked and mad. Until the late 1990s hella remained part of the dialect of Northern California and the Northwest, growing in popularity and spawning several variants, including "hecka", "helluv" and "hecksa". More recently, hella has evolved into "holla," which carries more emphasized meaning.

Nationwide spread

By 1997, the word had spread to hip hop culture, though it remained a primarily West Coast term.[6] With the release of the 2001 No Doubt song "Hella Good", one Virginian transplant in California "fear[ed] the worst: nationwide acceptance of this wretched term."[7]

In the South Park episode "Spookyfish", which was the 1998 Halloween special, the character Cartman repeatedly used the term hella to the annoyance of the other characters[8], which contributed to its currency spreading nationally.[9] "You guys are hella stupid" is one of the phrases spoken by a talking Cartman doll released in 2006.[10] The Sacramento-based band Hella chose its name for the regional association; Zach Hill says "It's everywhere up here.... We thought it was funny, and everyone says it all the time."[11] In early 2010, Austin Sendek of UC Davis created a petition encouraging the SI system to designate "hella-" as the prefix for 1027, following "yotta-" for 1024.[12][13]

Worldwide spread

Hella was recently included on the BBC's list of 20 words that sum up the 2000-2009 decade. [14] Defining it as "An intensive in Youthspeak, generally substituting for the word 'very', " hella's inclusion on the list marks its ascension into the international slang lexicon.

References

  1. ^ William Safire (November 28, 2004). "Kiduage". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/28/magazine/28ONLANGUAGE.html. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  2. ^ "Campus Slang". Voice of America. December 19, 2002. http://128.11.143.113/specialenglish/archive/2002-12/a-2002-12-18-2-1.cfm. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  3. ^ Allan A. Metcalf (2000). How We Talk: American Regional English Today. Houghton Mifflin Reference Books. ISBN 0618043624. http://books.google.com/books?id=SsMUCl5j8X4C. 
  4. ^ Colleen Cotter (2001). USA Phrasebook. Lonely Planet. http://books.google.com/books?id=RSkUXkI14pAC. 
  5. ^ Angela Ruggiero (November 16, 2006). "The ongoing 'hella' battle". California Aggie. http://media.www.californiaaggie.com/media/storage/paper981/news/2006/11/16/Opinion/Angela.Ruggiero-2464207.shtml. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  6. ^ Lynette Holloway (January 5, 1997). "Shorties and Scholars Agree, the Word Is Rap". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E01E2D61739F936A35752C0A961958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  7. ^ David Gentry (May 16, 2002). "I Hate Hella, All Montagues, and Thee". Charlottesville, Virginia: The Hook. http://www.readthehook.com/Stories/2002/05/16/essayonhellabygentry.html. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  8. ^ "Spooky Fish Recap". TV.com. http://www.tv.com/south-park/spooky-fish/episode/2444/recap.html. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  9. ^ Kristin Carmichael (Spring 1999). "Yo, yo, yo ... Catch this Slang is used to unify the masses". CatBytes (California State University, Chico). http://www.csuchico.edu/jour/catbytes/s99/slang.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  10. ^ Luigi Lugmayr (October 28, 2006). "Must Have: Talking Cartman Action Figure". I4U News. http://www.i4u.com/article6942.html. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  11. ^ Jeremy Scherer (October 15, 2003). "Hella: Slang name for a band that's hard to pigeonhole". Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=VDBB&p_theme=vdbb&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0FE6CF3366EEB29E&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  12. ^ http://www.makehellaofficial.blogspot.com/
  13. ^ http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Official-Petition-to-Establish-Hella-as-the-SI-Prefix-for-1027/277479937276?ref=ts
  14. ^ "A Portrait of the Decade". BBC. December 14, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8409040.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 

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