Can 'nip off' mean 'to take a small amount of something', e.g. time?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by a_menudo, Aug 4, 2015.

  1. a_menudo

    a_menudo Banned

    Poland
    Polish
    Hi,
    The context: Parents of two, aged, say, 2 & 4, don't have much time for themselves. Their lives basically revolve around children and work. In a conversation one of the parents says something like that: You know, I'm so fed up with this daily routine, I'd just like to at least 'nip off' a bit of time for ourselves (meaning to take a small amount of). Is the phrasal verb "nip off" appropriate for this situation?
     
  2. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Short answer: No.

    Long answer: You do not say why you wish to know this and the answer depends on the context. As part of the conversation of two people or characters in a story, this could work if "nip off" were placed in quotes, i.e. distinguished as a nonce use.
     
  3. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    "Nip off" means 'leave' and is intransitive, so "nip off a bit of time" doesn't work.
     
  4. a_menudo

    a_menudo Banned

    Poland
    Polish
    I see. Can you think of any word or phrase that could fit in this context?
    You could simply use "to have", but it wouldn't imply that the amount is really small, would it?
     
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    We can also nip off something: "Nip off dead flowers between thumb and forefinger or trim with secateurs."

    To nip off in the sense of leave is colloquial and informal.
    It really would help if you said why you needed to know...

    If you want to use "have" and express a small amount, "have just a little time to ourselves" works.
     
  6. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    "I'd just like to grab/snatch a little time for the two of us."
     
  7. a_menudo

    a_menudo Banned

    Poland
    Polish
    PaulQ, I'm in the habit of jotting down words which I use or hear used in a language (usually my native one) and then translating them into languages I study. It's a great way to expand your vocabulary and boost the learning process a great deal. :)

    This particular word (in Polish) is closely related (when translated into English) to the word "nibble", but you cannot really nibble time, even metaphorically, right? Just food.
     
  8. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Thanks, that's helpful. I thought you might be translating something or creating a conversation.

    You can nibble into time - a figurative meaning: to encroach (into/upon something) in a small way "We have two hours to finish the job, and that will only just be enough. If we stop every 10 minutes to count how many we have made, that will nibble into our time and we may not get finished."
     

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