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Then he had come to the tabloids of the excellent M. Najdol. These guarantee, on the label, ‘Refreshing and absolutely natural sleep to the soul-weary.’ They are carried in a case with a spring which presses one scented tabloid to the end of the tube, whence it can be lipped off in stroking the moustache or adjusting the veil.

This is from "In the Same Boat " by Rudyard Kipling.
https://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/tale/in-the-same-boat.htm

I don't understand the meaning of whence it can be lipped off in stroking the moustache or adjusting the veil.

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They are carried in a case with a spring which presses one scented tabloid to the end of the tube, whence it can be lipped off in stroking the moustache or adjusting the veil.

This means that the tablets, which I presume are opium or some similar drug, can be taken in a concealed manner while pretending to groom one's mustache (if an man) or to adjust one's veil (if a woman). Here "lipped off" means extracted from the dispensing tube with the lips and then taken into the mouth, and probably swallowed.

The quote is supposed to sound like and advertisement for or description of this preparation (drug).

Note that in modern use a "tabloid" is a kind of newspaper, not a pill or tablet. Note also the assumption that all men will wear a mustache.

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  • I appreciate your kind and detailed answer. Now I clearly understand the meaning. Dec 28, 2021 at 1:50
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    @HiroshiInagaki , a similar more typical phrase is "bitten-off". (We could perhaps invent a sentence such as: "If you're holding a Pocky, the good thing is, any time you're ready for another nibble, a little more can be bitten-off the chocolate end ...") Another one is "snipped-off" (imagine using a scissors, or one of those metal-snipping tools). The phrase "lipped-off" is not common or clear, you have to sort of think about the meaning!
    – Fattie
    Dec 28, 2021 at 13:10
  • @Fattie, thank you very much for your information! Dec 28, 2021 at 23:10
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    lol you're welcome! do note there's also the fairly common phrase "tipped-off". (usually used in - say - a police TV show - see oed "tip off") You probably also know "ripped-off". Since "lipped-off" is rather literate, arcane, and/or out of date, it would definitely cause confusion or simply be not-understood by many native English readers.
    – Fattie
    Dec 29, 2021 at 16:19

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