Buck gets ahold of a grammar problem

May 26 Buck's English
BY GENE OWENS Published: May 26, 2012

Ben Bailey, of Altus, wants Buck to help him get hold of the correct understanding of “ahold.”

Ben saw it recently in a Swayback Daily Kick editorial: “Pentobarbital has become nigh impossible to get ahold of because the manufacturer no longer sells it to prison systems that intend to use it in executions.”

“I need to ‘get a good hold on my shovel,' or ‘hold on to the rail,'” he said, “but to use the telephone (for example) to ‘get hold of my lawyer,' or, worse yet, to ‘get ahold of my mother-in-law' strikes me as slangy, if not outright ungrammatical. Am I being picky?”

Well, Ben, the word “ahold” is listed respectfully in the American Heritage Dictionary and in Merriam Webster's.

The British-based Cambridge Dictionary characterizes it parenthetically as “U.S.,” which is a slight snub in Blighty.

It's based on the noun “hold,” meaning “a grip,” “the act of grasping” or “something that may be gripped for support.”

The article “a” became naturally attached to the noun as people began saying things like, “I took ahold of the hand rail and pulled myself up.”

“Hold” can also mean “full or immediate control or possession.”

Buck doubts that Ben could get full and immediate control of his mother-in-law, but he does reckon that he could get in full and immediate touch with her.

“Get ahold” has a somewhat folksy sound to it, which may be the reason the editors of the Daily Kick chose to use it.

“I tried to get aholt of my old mule, Lucifer, but he wouldn't take the bit,” said Uncle Hadacol.

“Maybe you should try to get ahold of him,” Buck said.

Send questions for Buck to Gene Owens, 104 Belspring Lane, Anderson, SC 29621, or email him at BucksEnglish@aol.com. Please let Buck know what town you're from.


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