If the Bay Area is anything, it is the land of slang! We’re a culturally rich region whose innovation and “cool” are often sources of inspiration to regions beyond. There is likely no term that embodies the spirit of Northern California better than “Hella”, a word most frequently used in place of “very”, “a lot” etc. On Wednesday Merriam-Webster announced that “Hella”, along with 2000+ other modern words, has been added to its unabridged dictionary.
While for most of us growing up in the Bay meant rattling off “Hella” in all of its flexible uses and contexts (I’m hella feeling this new Rexx Life Raj joint), as well as attracting skeptical glances from our SoCal counterparts, many of us haven’t thought much about where the word actually comes from. While conversations of the word’s origin are muddled and often in disagreement, (some say Hayward in the 1930s, some say Toronto, some say Oakland) what we know is the use of “Hella” became popular sometime between 1975 and 1981 in the East Bay and has seeped out into Pacific Northwestern cities like Seattle & Portland and even into pop-culture as seen below with Cartman’s comical use of the word in a 1998 episode of Comedy Central’s controversial flagship South Park.
Often there’s a sense that the Bay is not given credit for the gifts we’ve given the world. Whether it’s our sound, our slang, or teaching Tupac the game (we did that). We often feel unappreciated and “Hella’s” addition to the dictionary may remind some of us of these feelings, even if it does so as a remedy. But I leave you with this, we’ve always fed and shaped the culture because we’re full of game. Merriam-Webster’s inclusion of “Hella” is further confirmation of that, and that’s pretty awesome. Bay Area stand up!