Origin of recent slang words?

In the last few years I have heard a number of new (at least to me) slang words and phrases that seem rather strange to me (of course, I’m sure that “gnarly” and “rad” sounded pretty strange to my parent’s generation, but that’s another story):

Hella tight (apparently means “very good”)

Da bomb (also slang for “very good”)

Props (credit or respect, as in “I’ve got to give you props for that”)

I’m assuming these are all too new to appear in the OED, and I’m wondering if anybody knows where these words came from. Not what they mean, or their derivations, but where they were first used. I have a feeling that some media personaility (whether an actor, a rapper, or what have you) coined each word and his or her fans picked it up and began spreading it, but that’s just a theory.



Just some educated guesses here, but logic dictates the following:

Hella tight:
Use: “Yo got a hella tide ride, homey!”.
-Probably contracted from ‘Hell of a tight’, with ‘tight’ meaning constructionally sound.

Da bomb:
Use: “That physics class is da bomb”.
-Simple enough, bombs are explosive, brilliant, and very attention getting.

Use: “All props to God for letting me win this GRAMMY ™”.
-Probably a contracted form of a longer word…not sure what though.

As for your estimation on how slang spreads, you’re probably right.

Where did Badass come from?

Could “props” be from propping something up, in other words giving it support?

I was told that “props” came from “proper respect” or " proper due". Giving someone their props was the same as giving them their proper respect. Probably not though.

Whence the origin of putting “-ass” after an adjective?

For example: “David Letterman gives selected members of his auddience a big-ass ham.”

The Ring is a scary-ass movie.”

I don’t know who originally coined those three phrases, but each of them was definetely popularized by their use in rap music. For instance, in the song “Lyrical Gangbang” from Dr. Dre’s album The Chronic [1992] a rapper named Kurupt has the following lyics:

However, he wasn’t the first to use it, and I don’t know who was. Given these phrases’ probable origin is in street slang, I doubt anyone will ever be able to trace them back to one particular person.

Aretha Franklin in Respect

“…give me my propers when you get home.”

I always assumed that’s where props came from. Just a shortening of propers.

Actually, I believe that is correct. According to this Safire article, it originated on the west coast among musicians. Personally, I see it frequently used among sports fans, so I thought it originated in the sports world.

“Hella” evolved from “Hell of a,” though it’s now used in situations where “hell of a” wouldn’t fit, like modifying an adjective (hella cool, hella tight, etc). There’s also the much-laughed-at “g-rated” version “hecka”.

As for tight … well, just about any adjective can gain the many uses that “cool” has. Tight, sweet, dope, whack, fresh, rad, prime, hot, awesome, crispy … the list goes on.