The following is an excerpt from 1984:

In the low-ceilinged canteen, deep underground, the lunch queue jerked slowly forward. The room was already very full and deafeningly noisy. From the grille at the counter the steam of stew came pouring forth, with a sour metallic smell which did not quite overcome the fumes of Victory Gin. On the far side of the room there was a small bar, a mere hole in the wall, where gin could be bought at ten cents the large nip.

Can we say a large nip? What's the difference between a and the in such cases? Can we also say per large nip?


2 Answers 2


"Cents the large nip" is not complete grammar. It's colloquial. In this sentence I would translate "the" as meaning "for a."

"Per" could work, although my feeling is (in this case) you don't want to add adjectives after "per" if you can help it because it makes the sentence more clumsy. Saying "ten cents per nip" is nice, but hey, it's a large nip.

  • 3
    Isn't it valid in some dialects to say “Apples for sale, two shillings the pound”? (though I guess that would be an exorbitant price when there were shillings) Apr 6, 2019 at 23:40
  • Could be dialectical, could be colloquial. Eric Blair was British.
    – Hunter
    Apr 7, 2019 at 6:05

Presumably, there were other nips you could buy. Imagine a sign on the wall:

Small nip, medium nip, large nip. Therefore, when talking about the liquor in relation to those, it is specifically the large one he is referring to. This is imaginary for purposes of explanation.

No, per the large nip would just mean: for the large nip but would not be elegant here. per is usually used in business or economics or administrative texts.

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