The Great "Hella" Debate...

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It's Friday, so allow me to write something that strays from baseball a bit (ok, it strays a lot...It's pretty much completely unrelated), but still related to the West Coast...And more specifically, California...

There are many rivalries when it comes to Northern California (aka "NorCal") versus Southern California (aka "SoCal") - Giants vs. Dodgers, A's vs. Angels, Lakers vs. Kings, Safeway vs. Vons, and putting "the" in front of your freeways vs. not saying "the" (it seems that people in Southern California refer to freeways as "the 405" or "the 15." In Northern California, we usually just say "85" or "680."). But one of the most heated debates is probably "hella" vs. not saying "hella."

Allow me to explain. "Hella" is a word that has many uses. For example, you can use it in place of "a lot of" - like "I have gotten hella speeding tickets this year" or "I have hella eyelashes." You can also use it in place of "very" - like "that's hella dumb" or "you're hella lame." It can also be used as to compliment a good looking lady or gentleman - "she's hella fine" or "that boy is hella cute." And I have also heard it used to refer to a long lapse in time - as in "I was gone for hella days." And the general consensus seems to be that "hella" was coined in Northern California and is used by "NorCal" folks.

Now, I grew up in the northern half of the state (specifically, the Bay Area), and I hella used hella in my youth. It was both exciting and convenient that one word could convey so many emotions.
But when I turned 18 and went off to college in Southern California (go Bruins!), I found that "hella" was not accepted by the "SoCal" folks. Whenever I uttered the word ("that midterm was hella hard!") I would be taunted with comments like "What's up with you NorCal people and hella?" or "Saying hella is "hella" dumb!" I didn't understand - how could one word bring so much anger to so many people? Although I was proud of my roots, it was difficult to endure the constant teasing. So I suppressed my urges to say "hella." I started saying things like "That midterm was really hard" and "I have a lot of eyelashes" (I have no idea why I used this example - my eyelashes have never come up in a conversation). I only muttered "hella" when I knew I was in the environment of NorCal residents. But even that was tricky, because sometimes, someone would tell you they're from San Francisco, when it turns out they were born in LA, and moved there when they were a teenager. So in reality, they, too, dislike "hella."

Anyway, even though I had stopped saying "hella," I still had many questions - Why do Southern Californians hate hella so much? Where do you draw the line in California where it is and isn't appropriate to say it? And what to the residents of Central California think about "hella?"

But things seemed to change in 2001 when No Doubt released the album "Rock Steady." The Anaheim-based rockers (or whatever you want to call them) had a song on the album called "Hella Good." Yes, a Southern California band was using the Northern California word. Ever since then, I have gotten a little less crap for using the word "hella." People don't roll their eyes at me as much for saying it. I even felt comfortable enough to utter it once in a San Diego bar - I believe I said "It's hella cold in here."

So has the great hella debate been laid to rest? Has Gwen Sefani bridged a gap that was once unbridgeable? Probably not - after all, she's told us many times she's "just a girl" - but at least it's a start...