"Can't get ahold of" and "Can't get a hold of"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by prankstare, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. prankstare Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Please will any of you inform me what does "to get a hold of" mean? As in:

    "I can't get a hold of this love." (well not sure if this works since I just made this one up)

    In addition, can anybody confirm if "get ahold of" does really exist in correct English? I was just trying a Google search about the first one mentioned and then I came up with these two terms. But still I haven't found what I'm looking for. :)
  2. vicky1027 Senior Member

    usa english
    I don't think "ahold" exists.

    I think you could say both "I can't get hold of him" or "I can't get a hold of him" in the context "I'm having a problem getting in touch with him"

    Your example seems awkward to me, maybe "I can't get a hold on this love"

    But it really matters what the context is...
  3. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I do think ahold is a proper word. Some people pronounce it as if it were "aholt".

    "Get ahold of" can mean "reach" or "seize", depending on context.
  4. Mr.X Senior Senior Member

    Burmese & English (2nd Language)
    According to SOED:

    ahold is noun : Hold , grab , of, on, etc.
  5. prankstare Senior Member

    São Paulo
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Uhm, nice observations vicky and Forero. Thanks by the way.

    So what would "I can't get a hold on this love" mean? It means something different like by 'hold' it means 'a break; time' or not?
  6. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    "ahold" doesn't exist in the WRD. Merriam-Webster (which tends to accept almost anything) calls it a noun and dictionary.com calls it an informal noun. (And the dictionary that's part of the Firefox browser flags it as an error.)

    Take your pick.

    As for me, I regard it as a colloquialism, perhaps rural, and would never use it in writing nor in formal presentations.
  7. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    That sentence sounds as if it means "I can't find/obtain this love".

    "Get ahold of" is common usage, and seems to have its own nuance, but I wouldn't use it formally where "get hold of" would do. "Get a hold of" seems to me like a confusion between "get (a)hold of" and "get a hold on", so I would decide which I mean and say just that.
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The OED says a-hold and a-holt are dialect or colloquial terms.
  9. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I had never seen "get ahold of" before I came to this thread. I can't see the point of combining the indefinite article and the noun. I wonder if "ahold of" vs "a hold of" owes something to "ahead of" vs "a head of". The trouble is that, whereas "ahead of" and "a head of" mean different things, "ahold of" appears to mean the same as "a hold of".
  10. Sedulia

    Sedulia Senior Member

    Paris, France
    **Literate** American English
    "Get ahold of" is how I would spell it, and it is pretty universal usage in the U.S. to mean something different from "get a hold"-- which would be more physical, whereas "ahold" is usually not physical: for example, "get a hold on that rail" (= hold on to that rail") versus "I couldn't get ahold of him" ("I couldn't reach him").

    I suspect it is very old, as it is most common in places like Appalachia, the South, and the Ozarks, where British settlers moved early on and then were linguistically isolated until radio and television came along.
  11. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    That's interesting, Sedulia. Usage changes, as you say. I think my usage is this:

    I don't use "get ahold of".
    I don't use "get a hold of".
    I use "get hold of". "I need to get hold of a carpet-shampooer" = "I need to obtain said appliance"; "I can't get hold of her" = "I have so far failed to make contact with her by telephone".
    I don't use "get ahold on".
    I use "get a hold on": "I can't get a hold on the branch. It's too slippery".

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