nip the rest of them back into their cage

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thaleshensilva

Senior Member
Portuguese-Brazil
I heard this on Harry Potter 2.
''I'll ask you three to just nip the rest of them back into their cage.''
In such a context,what does ''nip(back)'' mean?
I swear I searched on google and on a bunch of web sites.
But I can't find what ''nip back mean''.
 
  • thaleshensilva

    Senior Member
    Portuguese-Brazil
    What's "them"? I imagine it means to pop them or put them back in their cage.
    I'll have to explain a bit of the movie,unfortunately.
    But we must know that this movie is more than 10 years old and it uses british english.
    Gilderoy Lockhart(the guy who said ''nip back'')decides to release many ''pixies'' during the his class (he was the professor).
    After such a confusion,he says (to Harry,Hermione and Rony,three characters)
    ''I'll ask you three to just nip the rest of them back into their cage''.''Them'' means the pixies,those magic creatures.
    But I wonder why he used ''nip back'' as ''put back''.Since ''Nip'' mean other different things.
     

    dermott

    Senior Member
    B.E. via Australian English
    First, it's colourful use of language; second, language plays a fundamental part in defining a character whether on the page, on screen, on stage, wherever. Not everyone speaks the same way, and everyone speaking the same way is a good indication of poor writing. The writer could have had the character say "put the rest of them back" but decided it was too prosaic for the character. I don't know Harry Potter 2 - or any of the Harry Potters for that matter - but you will probably find the Lockhart character uses other quaint - for want of a better term - expressions.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Is the quotation from a transcript of the dialogue, or is it how you heard it, thales? I wonder whether you simply misheard.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I'll ask you three to just nip the rest of them back into their cage.
    I'll ask you three to just quickly put the rest of them back in their cage.

    Not a common use of nip, but nip does imply doing something quickly.

    A common use is "I'll just nip over to the store and buy one." This says I'll go over to the store, which will take hardly any time.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    If the online copy I found is correct, this sentence is taken directly from Rowling's book.
    Is this verb used in AE in that sense? ("I'll just nip down to the grocer's")

    In BE I would expect to see "pop them back in the cage".
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I found it in the novel the movie was based on, so there isn't any question of an error. Perhaps Rowling meant this character to suggest they get hold of the pixies in a pincer grip and put them back in the cages. I don't know how large these creatures were and how they were supposed to be caught. He told the kids to do this nasty job, so "nip them back" is an attempt to make the job sound quick and easy.

    I don't think "nip" does ever imply doing something quickly, though in BE it can mean to go quickly (intransitive):nip down to the shops. Normally it means to clip or pinch or bite or squeeze with a pincer-like movement.
     

    dermott

    Senior Member
    B.E. via Australian English
    I think it's being over-analysed. Rowling decided to use a colourful expression, probably in keeping with the character who uses other such colourful expressions. I don't know the character so I can't be sure, but I wouldn't be surprised.
     
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