Make Your Editor Cry: Ahold or A Hold or Hold?
A hold means a grasp, something to hold, or an order to reserve something. Ahold is usually reserved for a physical hold, but a hold can have a broader application.
The phrase a hold can refer to a physical grasp, such as when you take hold of a handle for support. In wrestling or the martial arts, a hold is a move to keep your opponent restrained. It can also mean to control or dominate something or someone mentally or emotionally by having a hold on it or them. When you put a hold on a booking or an order or something else, then a hold is basically a reservation. In the world of finance, a hold is a security.
What needs to be clear is that in standard English wherever it is spoken, you properly “take hold” or “get hold” of something or someone, you do not “take ahold” or “get ahold” of something or someone.
Ahold has been around since at least the mid-19th century and is an informal variant form of the two word phrase a hold that is not widely used outside these United States. It generally means to grasp as in “If I can get ahold of a laptop, I can hack the mainframe.” Or to make contact with someone. “She needed to get ahold of the family to let them know what happened.” In that latter meaning, in the sense of “making contact,” ahold is more appropriate than a hold, although because ahold is informal. Therefore, I would not recommend using it in narrative text, only dialogue. In the narrative, it would probably be better, and more clear, to write something like “She needed to make contact with the family to let them know what happened.”
With an American speaker, when you write dialogue, it is probably perfectly okay to use “ahold” when describing something that character said in his or her common dialect. But because “ahold” is usually considered to be an “Americanism” and informal, at least in the narrative text, you will likely be better off writing “get hold” or “take hold” or a similar construction instead. Remember, in standard English you simply “take hold” or “get hold” of something or someone. If the phrase reads or sounds unnatural to you without the article, you can add the space and write something like “get a hold” or “take a hold” or “lay a hold” if you like.
She needed to get ahold of the family to let them know what happened.
Be careful not to let anyone get ahold of your password.
As I started to walk away, he grabbed ahold of my arm and wouldn't let me go.
I cannot wait until the holy spirit gets ahold of him.
It's like air—you can't get ahold of it.
if you could get ahold of the representative, tell her I didn't vote for her.
She grabbed ahold of the front of his shirt.
The easy part is getting ahold of a duck whistle and some ammunition.
He got ahold of the tree limb and held on for dear life.
After a little while the apes allowed Goodall to take hold of them, scratch them on the back, and play with them in various ways.
I did not want Jane to retire until I was ready to take hold of it effectively myself.
He got hold of the tree limb and held on for dear life.
Somehow she managed to get hold of the band's new album before it came out.
My advice is that you get hold of yourself before you walk in there.
Just get hold of the bottom of the tube and squeeze.
Lay hold of that rope and tie a square knot.
The idea is difficult to lay hold of.
The change in the law has not yet taken hold.
After a little while the apes allowed Goodall to take a hold of them, scratch them on the back, and play with them in various ways.
I did not want Jane to retire until I was ready to take a hold of it effectively myself.
He got a hold of the tree limb and held on for dear life.
I set a hold order on that stock at ten over opening with my broker.
My advice is that you get a hold of yourself before you walk in there.
Just get a hold of the bottom of the tube and squeeze.
Lay a hold of that rope and tie a square knot.
Put a hold on the banquet room for the second Monday of February.
The change in the law has not yet taken a hold.
Gregg Bridgeman is the Editor-in-Chief at Olivia Kimbrell Press. He is husband to best-selling Christian author Hallee Bridgeman and parent to three. He continues to proudly serve in the US Armed Forces and has done so in either an active or reserve capacity for more than twenty years as an airborne and air assault qualified paratrooper, earning a Bronze Star for his service. Most importantly, he was ordained in October of 2001 after surrendering his life to Christ decades earlier.