[Ads-l] "Hella" in the Bay Area Reporter, 1982-85 (was Re: Hella research inquiry)

Bill Mullins amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 18 01:29:43 UTC 2020

A participant in Ben Zimmer's Twitter thread mentions the euphemized versions "hecka" and "heck of".

_Bay Area Reporter_  4/28/1983  p 18 col 1
"Her Pie-Throwing Auction on Sunday, April 17, at the Bench & Bar may have raised a hecka bucks for the Oakland Marching Corps (Pom Pons [sic], Banners, Flags), but quite a few of the "targets" knew nothing of their alleged agreement to be available."

Nicole Monet _The Sandcastle Man_ NY: Silhouette Books, 1986  pp. 67-68
"Brian Fulsom and Freddie Gilmore wear theirs, and they look hecka bad."

Meredith Maran _Class Dismissed:  A Year in the Life of an American High School_  NY: St. Martin's Press, 2001.  p. 185 [set at Berkeley High School]
"Even his name is heck of cool, she muses dreamily."

Sheila Escovedo ("Sheila E") says in her memoir _The Beat of My Own Drum_ that she and her friends were using both forms (hella/hecka) in the mid-1970s in the SF Bay area.


As a follow-up to the WSJ column, I put together a long Twitter thread with
more research findings, including the Berkeley HS "hell of" examples
discussed below.


On Sat, Nov 14, 2020 at 6:16 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:

> My latest column for the Wall Street Journal is all about the history of
> "hella," incorporating the Bay Area Reporter evidence that I uncovered
> going back to 1982.
> Caution-https://www.wsj.com/articles/hella-a-heck-of-a-superlative-by-way-of-oakland-11605293046
> non-paywalled version: Caution-https://archive.is/PYVrD
> I also mention the "hell of" examples that Peter Reitan found in the
> Berkeley High School yearbook. Peter had taken that back to the 1983-84
> yearbook, where "hell of" tops the list of "Most Used Slang."
> Caution-https://archive.org/details/ollapodrida1983unse/page/124/mode/1up
> Since my column was published, earlier examples have come to light in the
> BHS yearbooks available on the Internet Archive (scanned and digitized by
> the Berkeley Public Library). Robin Melnick pointed me to this from the
> 1981 yearbook:
> ---
> Caution-https://archive.org/details/ollapodrida1980unse/page/158/mode/1up
> Berkeley High School Yearbook, 1980-81, p. 158
> "Man, there were hell of foxes at BHS this year."
> ---
> There are even earlier examples of "hell of" in handwritten notes found in
> the scanned yearbooks. Here are the two earliest I've found:
> ---
> Caution-https://archive.org/details/ollapodrida1978unse/page/n355/mode/1up
> Berkeley High School Yearbook, 1978-79 (no page number)
> "Too bad you didn't go to Santa Cruz cause it was hell of live."
> ---
> Caution-https://archive.org/details/ollapodrida1979unse/page/n2/mode/1up
> Berkeley High School Yearbook, 1979-80 (no page number)
> "We shared hell of pain together."
> ---
> So that pushes back the intensifier ("hell of live") to 1979 and the
> quantifier ("hell of pain") to 1980.
> --bgz
> On Mon, Sep 28, 2020 at 9:17 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Following Peter Reitan's lead, I checked the Internet Archive for San
>> Francisco Bay Area sources from the '80s and came across some important
>> "hella" antedatings. In the Bay Area Reporter, a weekly alternative
>> newspaper serving the LGBT community, there are several examples of "hella"
>> used as both an adverb and adjective dating all the way back to 1982, four
>> years earlier than what had previously been found. Below are examples from
>> '82, '83, '84, and '85, all from the same Oakland-based columnist who used
>> the pen name "Nez Pas." That further reinforces the idea that "hella"
>> originated in the East Bay (as suggested by later examples, like those from
>> James Hetfield and Too $hort in '86).
>> According to this article, the real name of "Nez Pas" is Peter Palm:
>> Caution-https://www.ebar.com/entertainment/culture/173481
>> "And to keep up on the lively bar scene in the East Bay, there was a
>> column by Nez Pas, known in real life as Peter Palm, the co-owner of Revol
>> at 3924 Telegraph with his partner Ralph Tate. Nez Pas kept his readers up
>> on the community events in Oakland, Walnut Creek and Hayward."
>> Here are the cites:
>> ----
>> Caution-https://archive.org/details/BAR_19820311/page/n15/mode/2up
>> Bay Area Reporter, Mar. 11, 1982, p. 17, col. 3
>> Nez Pas, "Oakland: Chuck of Montclair"
>> Until next time with the bits and pieces, take the time to find out about
>> someone... you just might be "hella surprised!"
>> ----
>> Caution-https://archive.org/details/BAR_19831027/page/n19/mode/2up
>> Bay Area Reporter, Oct. 27, 1983, p. 21, col. 1
>> Nez Pas, "Oakland: Buckle Your Seat Belts"
>> Graham promises a lot of entertainment on video screens throughout both
>> bars, scrumptious victuals, "hella" contests, and mucho prizes!
>> ----
>> Caution-https://archive.org/details/BAR_19841025/page/n19/mode/2up
>> Bay Area Reporter, Oct. 25, 1984, p. 21, col. 1
>> Nez Pas, "Oakland: Royal Summit, Meet the Monarchs"
>> Third: Lengthy, drawn-out cants aren't necessary in raising "hella"
>> bucks.
>> ----
>> Caution-https://archive.org/details/BAR_19850307/page/n17/mode/2up
>> Bay Area Reporter, Mar. 7, 1985, p. 19, col. 2
>> Nez Pas, "Oakland: Kudos Galore"
>> And speaking of March 10, a "hella" interest is being shown in the
>> "Wizard of Oz Party" at Big Mama's that date.
>> ----
>> --bgz
>> On Mon, Sep 28, 2020 at 4:26 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> In a 2016 post, I shared two "hella" citations from 1986, one from a
>>> magazine interview with James Hetfield of Metallica and one from lyrics by
>>> the rapper Too $hort.
>>> Caution-http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2016-March/141400.html
>>> I also posted a screenshot of the Hetfield interview on Twitter. (He
>>> actually used "hella" twice: "I'm hella paranoid" and "Yeah, hella" in
>>> response to "Does that scare you?")
>>> Caution-https://twitter.com/bgzimmer/status/713000098276511744
>>> --bgz
>>> On Mon, Sep 28, 2020 at 3:50 PM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
>>> wrote:
>>>> For a student working at the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project, I’m
>>>> wondering if anyone has any suggestions on early cites and history of
>>>> “hella”.  OED and HDAS both have 1987 for the earliest cite, but I suspect
>>>> that can now be antedated. At HDAS, Jon classifies it as a prefix but it’s
>>>> clearly shed that restriction when used in frames like the attested “This
>>>> chair reclines hella”, and I’d be inclined to go with the OED’s entry
>>>> listing it as an adverb (“hella fast/smart/funny”) and adjective (“hella
>>>> memory/pride/stairs”).  Our survey results are generally consistent with
>>>> the widespread view that it’s a Californianism (although while the
>>>> shibboleth still associates it with Northern California, that appears to no
>>>> longer be true), while also showing that it’s expanded well beyond that.
>>>> (DARE doesn’t have a separate entry, and just one cite, from Berkeley,
>>>> within the entry for “tight”. In terms of etymology, can we go beyond the
>>>> OED’s disjunctive suggestion, "Probably shortened < either helluva adj. or
>>>> hellacious adj.”?  Is there any literature the student should check out?
>>>> We’d be hella grateful!

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

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

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