Is it hella original?
As one of the Bay Area’s greatest gifts to the world of slang, hella is believed to have originated in Oakland, California, in the late 1970s. UC Berkeley linguist Geoff Nunberg told KQED that he traced the word’s origins back to Oakland. His findings were based on two citations found in a UC Berkeley student's 1987 dissertation titled “The Effects of Rituals and Routines of a Working-class High School."
Historically speaking, slang spreads from the African American community and crosses over to everyone else. Considering the origins of the word, hella may be a contraction of helluva. However, it is frequently used in sentences in which helluva would be grammatically incorrect. Hella’s root origins might be unclear, but regardless of when or how it first appeared, it undoubtedly has roots in the Bay Area.
What is hella anyway?
The use of hella in English is synonymous with adverbs such as very, really, and a lot. It is a sub modifier that gives an adjective more meaning as in recent examples “hella weird," "hella good," "hella crazy times." Although hella my not be appropriate to use in an academic paper, or business email to your boss, it has secured its place in many creative outlets. The Oxford English Dictionary added hella to its list of words in 2002. On April 20, 2016, Merriam-Webster announced to twitter that they, too, would add the term to their museum of words.
Is hella exclusive to Northern California?
Anyone can say hella, but depending on where you live, you may get some confused stares. The word is widely used by the residents of Northern California. It is associated with Bay Area hip hop legends such as Mac Dre and E-40. Bay Area rap culture has inspired the vernacular of other regions in the United States and has put hella on the map.
The word has become so deeply ingrained in Northern California speech that people from other parts of the state associate its usage with the people and culture from NorCal. Hella is not just exclusive to California. Speakers in Seattle, Washington, often use the term in a similar way to NorCal residents.
That being said, there are always words being born, evolving, and dying. The cycle of new words will probably continue until the end of time. However, in the hearts of Northern California residents, hella is forever a part of their lingo.