Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 13:50:45 -0500

From: Jesse T Sheidlower jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PANIX.COM

Subject: Re: hella hawkin'

Mary Bucholtz wrote:

On Wed, 24 Jan 1996, Jesse T Sheidlower wrote:

Not entirely sure; it depends on how accurate the

transcription is. "Hella-" is an intensive prefix like

"mega-," that has been in use at least since the late

'80s. I've never heard "hawkin'" before, but I have

(rarely) encounted "honkin'" meaning roughly "exciting;

jammin', etc." Perhaps these are different realizations

of the same word.


I'd be interested in knowing where you've heard "hella." As far as I

can tell it's restricted to Northern California, esp. the Bay Area--does

that fit your own observations? I wouldn't characterize it as a prefix,

incidentally--what leads you to describe it this way?

We have seven examples in the galleys of vol. II of HDAS, of which

two are from Los Angeles (from Pamela Munro's two collections of

U.C.L.A. slang) and the others are not localizable. The earliest

is 1989 (two cites), but two of them suggest earlier dates.

I called it a prefix because three of the seven examples explicitly

use it as one (either dictionary entries defining it as a prefix

or an actual use as prefix, esp. "hellacool"). All the examples

are prenominal, and a use such as *"That party was hella!" seems

extremely unlikely. (Most of our uses are adverbial preadjectival,

but we do have an adjectival prenoun example.) But my position

isn't that strong on it, if you want to consider it a straight



Jesse Sheidlower

Random House Reference