[Ads-l] hella (Aug. 1986)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 24 14:53:41 UTC 2016

"Hella," slang originating from the East Bay, is attested in the OED
back to 1987, with the earliest cite given for its adverbial usage,
'very, exceedingly; in an extraordinary or impressive manner.' As
noted in Green's Dictionary of Slang, adjectival "hella" ('much/many,
a lot of') shows up in 1986 in lyrics by the rapper Too $hort: ("The
Bitch Sucks Dick": "It was hella times, and it all was nice").

The Too $hort song was released on the album "Raw, Uncut and X-Rated"
in Nov. 1986 (as dated by Matt Kohl on The Right Rhymes:
http://www.therightrhymes.com/hella/ ). Slightly antedating that is an
Aug. 1986 interview with Metallica in the San Francisco skateboarding
magazine Thrasher, in which band member James Hetfield uses adverbial
"hella" twice. The topic of conversation is the title track from their
recently released album "Master of Puppets."

Thrasher, August 1986, p. 71, col. 1
transcript: http://www.metallicaworld.co.uk/Interviews/1986_thrasher.htm
page image: http://www.thrashermagazine.com/articles/magazine/august-1986/

Why are you saying "Master of Puppets"? Is it something that you've
felt has been done to you or that you see being done to your friends?

J: Nah, I see it done to different people. Some of the stuff...well
"Master of Puppets" deals pretty much with drugs. How things get
switched around, instead of you controlling what you're taking and
doing it's drugs controlling you. Like, I went to a party here in
S.F., there were all these freaks shooting up and geezin' and this
other girl was real sick.

Does that scare you?

J: Yeah, hella.

Are you guys getting to the point where you're becoming an anti-drug band?

J: No, because we don't want to tell anyone what to do. If people are
into it that's cool, they wouldn't mind about the subject we're
talking about. I was at that party and it freaked me out and I'm hella

(Hetfield and the rest of Metallica had moved to the East Bay in 1983.)


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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