A slang word used by some people in san francisco or seattle, meaning 'very' or 'extremely' or f*cking. This word is used entirely by residents of these areas (and by Cartman from South Park) and should never be used outside its native range. For instance, in Los Angeles, this word roughly will translate to 'please shoot me and take all my money now'. Although the usage of this word is hated by some, the similar word hecka is even more despised.

A company that makes vehicle lighting products, automotive electronics and modular car parts. More commonly known for offroad style lights that adorn the roll bars of pickup trucks and the bumpers of expensive SUV's.

The first time I saw Hella, it was at the Capitol Garage Coffee Company on L Street in downtown Sacramento, one of the only good musical venues in Sacramento, but in fact one of the better ones I've been to anywhere. This was in the Spring of 2001; the band, themselves from Sacramento, had only been a touring band for a matter of days. They had only been a band for a matter of months. Needless to say, given their name and obscurity, I feared for my evening.

As luck would have it, they rocked. I even bought their overpriced demo CD.

Barely a full year later, I was surfing the All Music Guide for information on a K Records band I had seen when something in the list of 'similar bands' caught my eye. Hella? I clicked and there they were, drummer Spencer Seim and guitarist Zach Hill with a record deal and a blurb on AMG only a litle over a year after forming. "Bad ass," I thought, "one more small thing to be proud of in a city otherwise barren of talent. And I acquired their debut CD.

I was glad to see that they hadn't entirely sold out their musical style to cut a record deal, which is amazing, since I thought they would at least acquire a vocalist. AMG describes their sound as Noise Rock, Indie Rock, but I think their influence is a lot stranger than that. In my mind, Zach's peculiar method of plucking and tweaking his guitar ike a dueling punk banjoist bears less relation to famouse Noise influences like the Boredoms or Unwound than to some jazz guitarists. In any case, it gives the music a distinctly popping, energetic feel, like their always straining to reach the crescendo of some fast-pitched note war. The melody gives way easily to interludes of frenzied building and cheering from the audience.

Seim's drumming in no way drags, either. He manages to pump out intricate rhythms with speed and complexity at least equal to Hill's snapping melodies, and sometimes sets the pace himself. The effect is both simple and complex. In one sense, the arrangement of one drummer and one guitarist limits the sound, but in another clears the riffs and keeps the pace from becoming to abrasive. All in all, it's damned danceable, ad that's a treasured thing in an indie band.

Born Feb 2001 in Sacramento, CA
Formed 2001
Genres Rock
Styles Noise-Rock, Indie Rock
Instruments Guitar (Electric), Drums

2001 Hold Your Horse Is Rue Christine Records
I'd like to add a bit more info on the possible geographic origin of hella (and defend the honor of my hometown of San Francisco). When I attended UC Santa Cruz from 1995-1997, it was clear to me and my friends that the term originated or at least found an early foothold in the Central Valley - of the four people we knew who used the term regularly, two were from rural Central Valley areas and one was from Sacramento (the largest city in the valley). Since then it has taken hold in the mouths of junior high school girls and, from there, the masses.

It should also be noted, contrary to Inyo's w/u, it is used in the Los Angeles area, albeit mostly (in my experience) by children.

Hella (and its back-formation polite variant, hecka), like many new words (often called slang), displays more innovation than it gets credit for. Often, fans of prescriptive grammar and others without deep understanding of languages believe that because a word is new, used by young speakers, and/or is something that they don't understand because it is not used by their speech community, that it is meaningless and/or a "filler word" (and, in many cases, evidences language degradation). However, the word hella has unique meaning and in this way expresses a subtlety of usage that generally goes unnoticed.

The common interpretation of the word hella, both by users and non-users of the word, is as an intensifier, a class of words including very, extremely, really, and the like. Because of this belief, hella is often compared to wicked, a slang intensifier used in Massachusetts.

Hella can certainly be used as an intensifier, such as in the utterances below:

1) That movie was hella stupid.
2) She was hella checkin' you out.

However, hella can also be used as a quantifier, a class of words including some, many, less, etc. In this sense, hella roughly glosses as "a lot", though it is worth noting that it can quantify both mass and count nouns, which is unusual. Examples 3-4 illustrate this type of use.

3) We bought hella food for the party.
4) There were hella people at that party.

Furthermore, hella can be used to affirm truth value, like the word really (above I mention that really is an intensifier, but in this case, and many others, the word functions in different ways in different contexts: in the utterance "She's really smart," really acts as an intensifier, whereas in the utterance, "She really is smart," it functions to reaffirm the truth value of, "She is smart.") Example 5 illustrates the truth value function of hella.

5) She's hella from France.

It's clear that this is a truth value marker rather than an intensifier, because the proposition "she's from France" is not something that be graded the way that "she is smart" can be; it can only be intensified by having its truth affirmed.

Waksler (2000) looked at the word hella in various environments (though she did not include the truth value function) and provided the following unified analysis:

"I hypothesize that HELLA indicates a large proportion of the set denoted by the constituent it modifies. This analysis yields an interpretation as an intensifier or quantifier, depending on the denotation of the set it modifies. Syntactically, HELLA is a specifier of the Intensifier category, a more generalized intensifier than previously documented in English."

It's not clear that this analysis works with the truth value examples, however, as "from France" is not a set of which a portion can be indicated. This analysis would require further work in order to unify all uses of hella.

Waskler, Rachelle. "A HELLA New Specifier" (2000) Festschrift for Jorge Hankamer, S. Chung, (ed.), http://ling.ucsc.edu/Jorge.

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