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What does

That's gonna leave one helluva scar

mean? Does helluva stand for a hell off a?

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  • Welcome to EL&U. We appreciate added information about your question, such as what confused you when you researched the answer, etc. With more information, you're more likely to get a more helpful answer. :) Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 1:38
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    Thanks for your response, I didn't know the actual meaning of "hell off a" on that context. Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 1:47

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No. It is a representation of how people pronounce hell of a. (There is no phrase hell off a as far as I know).

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  • It might also be called a phonetic spelling of certain regional U.S. accents. Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 2:15
  • It was obviously a typo! Minus 1 for being petty.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 22:44
  • I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer— A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer. Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear. I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer. (Georgia Tech fight song, based ona Scottish drinking song)
    – Xanne
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 7:31
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As @Coiln Fine said, it's based on pronunciation.

Hell (like it sounds) + of (pronounced like ov- on oven, or əv in IPA) + a (ə in IPA). Because the consonants are essentially l and v, it's easy to blend the words together: hɛləvə. Press on the audio icon to hear it pronounced here

Hell off a would require a voiceless fricative f, which is not present in helluva. To hear the voiceless fricative in off, use the audio icon here.

There is no idiom, hell off a. However, there is " to hell in a hand basket" which is fun. It means something is falling apart very quickly: this plan of yours is going to hell in a hand basket.

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Agree with Janus Bahs Jacquet, of course it comes from 'a hell of a'. In the UK, we still stay a hell of a, though said quickly, it can sound the same as 'helluva'. Here, though, it never appears in print in that way, but it does in the States, to it seems to be American shorthand for that phrase. In a similar vein, I've noticed something else happening the last ten years in the UK which is related - people used to say 'I'm bored with....' or 'I'm fed up with....' something or other, and in speech, the words get run together so it sounds like 'I'm bored'v...' Now everyone actually says 'I'm bored of...' and 'fed up of', losing entirely the original formulation of this expression. Which is presumably how 'helluva' came about...

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  • Please could you provide evidence that any English-speaker reduces "with" to [v]? "bored of" and "fed up of" can be explained by analogy with "tired of".
    – Rosie F
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 8:14
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Its simply because "hell" is thought in the States as a mild cuss word. Whereas, in the UK it isn't. So we've always used "hell of a" and the Americans wrote it "heluva" to make it a non-cuss word. Simple!

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Yes. It is simply a not-so-commonly used slang. The meaning is the exact same as helluva, and should be interpreted as such.

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    Of course 'helluva' means the same as 'helluva'. It is the same. And it's quite common. Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 1:28
  • Welcome to EL&U,rr. We appreciate your input. We also appreciate links to sources where applicable. :) Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 1:35
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet, I don't see how this was a bad answer. All I was doing was addressing the question. However, the only place I have seen it is on "helluva good!" onion dip. I would not exactly call helluva something that is commonly used. Commented Jan 2, 2014 at 21:06

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