It's the line from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I couldn't figure out the meaning of this word: hellfire

Here are the full lines:

Mom: I thought you smoked.

Daughter:Not pure hellfire, no.

Mom: Well, put it out; I'll smoke it later.

Basically is the character's mom gave her a cigarette, she smoked and coughed. And Hellfire is the reason.

I don't know whether the character means the smoke is too smoky or the cigarette doesn't have filter tip... or some other meanings...

  • 2
    Linking to a Wikipedia article does not really help us understand the conversation in question. Is more than one speaker involved here? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 5 at 11:35
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    Sorry for that, I just revised. – scarlett Dec 5 at 11:45
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    It would help if you could also identify the speakers. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 5 at 11:46
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    Finally, if there is a cough you need to indicate that in brackets. That's how to present a conversation that occurs in a drama. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 5 at 11:50
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Person A thought Person B was a smoker. Person B also thought of themselves as a smoker. Person A gave person B a cigarette that was extremely choking. Person B choked. Person B compared (hyperbole) the cigarette to hellfire, i.e to something extremely unpleasant.

As hellfire is not commonly associated with choking smoke, but rather with extreme heat and with the ability to burn anything, the comparison is a little off - probably only used because it recognizably has something to do with burning (burning sensation of the smoke? burning of the cigarette?) and because it is recognizably hyperbolically bad.

Alternatives:

  • "Not pure asphalt, no" (Props to Borgh! - this requires some background by the speaker on the mechanism of harmfulness of cigarettes, but fits best, imo)
  • "Not pure agony, no"
  • "Not pure despair, no"
  • "Not pure pain, no"
  • "Not dumpster fires, no" (though this would not fit the timeframe of the play)
  • "Not black powder, no"
  • You beat me by one minute. I planned to say it was an example of hyperbole. The cigarette is stronger than she's accustomed to, but not literally 'hellfure'. – Ross Murray Dec 5 at 11:51
  • I'd use "not pure asphalt no" in this case as tar smoke is notorious for being thick. – Borgh Dec 5 at 12:44

When mother asks "I thought you smoked?" the response from daughter, "Not pure hellfire, no" means simply that the smoke of this cigarette is very harsh indeed. It has no more specific meaning than that, such as that it lacks a filter.

P.S. The conversation goes as follows.

[Mother hands daughter a cigarette who lights it, takes a puff and coughs]

Mom: I thought you smoked?

Daughter: [Yes, I do smoke, but] Not pure hellfire, no.

Mom: Well, put it out; I'll smoke it later.

That is, "I do not take pure hellfire into my lungs." The reference is to the fires of Hell, the netherworld, and so it is a grotesque exaggeration. The mother smokes a cigarette which has not been made gentler for women. Cigarette marketing was often gender-specific and cigarette brands were often tailored to the preferences of women, being described in ads as "mild" or "smooth":

Cigarette ad targeting expectant mothers

Another cigarette ad targeting expectant mothers

Yet another cigarette ad targeting expectant mothers

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