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The word hella has spread from the Southern California dialect to the point where most varieties of American English speaker (such as me in the Midwest) know that it exists and hear it used. I always thought that hella meant either very or a lot of, for instance:

(1) Vancouver is hella far.

(2) There were hella cars on the freeway.

The above two sentences (which I both made up) were the only contexts I assumed hella was used in. However, I've recently and very occasionally overheard something like this:

(3) You have to walk hella to get to that subway station.

Which doesn't fit with my understanding of the word. So, question to Californians or others familiar with the hella-using dialect: Is (3), and sentences like it (where hella comes immediately after a verb), common? Are there any other usages for this word that I'm missing?

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2 Answers 2

Wikipedia has an article on hella:

Hella is a word associated with Northern California used throughout the United States and Canada. It is a contraction of the phrase "hell of a" or "hell of a lot [of]". It often appears in place of the words "really," "a lot," "totally," "very," and in some cases, "yes." Whereas hell of a is generally used with a noun, according to linguist Pamela Munro, hella is primarily used to modify an adjective such as "good."

[...]

While intensifiers similar to hella exist in many colloquial varieties, hella is unique in its flexibility. It can be used to modify almost any part of speech, as shown below.
That pizza was hella good: hella modifies the adjective good, where Standard American English would use very.
I ate hella pizza: hella modifies the noun pizza, replacing a lot of.
I hella bought four pizzas: hella modifies the verb to buy, replacing really or totally.
I ran hella quickly to the pizza joint when I heard about the one dollar cheese slices from my friend when we were talking at four in the afternoon one Saturday night: hella modifies the adverb quickly, replacing very.

This does at least answer your second question (whether there were any other usages for this word that you were missing).

Judging from what I've heard of the word, I would say that your third example usage is pretty uncommon. A more normal usage would be:

You have to walk hella far to get to that subway station.

A crude proof would be to Google "walk hella"; the results show walk hella far, walk hella slow, etc. There are no examples of walk hella.

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Yeah, I read that before asking my question, but they did not have any examples that correspond to you have to walk hella, which is why I asked here if that usage was standard. –  alcas Dec 9 '11 at 1:39
    
... and thanks for the quick edit :) –  alcas Dec 9 '11 at 1:46
    
The intensifier section of the Wikipedia article quoted here is not sourced. –  D Krueger Dec 11 '11 at 17:11

Out of two native Northern Californians (myself and a friend), neither of us has ever heard usage 3. 1 is the most common and 2 is more unusual.

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