Beat one's time, cut away

Posted by R. Berg on July 17, 2003

In Reply to: Phrases: "beat one's time" and "cut away" posted by James Briggs on July 17, 2003

: : 1.(a short passage)
: : Foot-racing is a popular activity in the United States.Though serious runners may spend months training to compete, other runners and walkers might not train at all.Those not competing to win might run in an effort to beat their own time, or simply to enjoy the fun and exercise.
: : (what does "beat their own time" mean? (any alternatives?) is "beat" the same as "outdo" here? what does "to outdo one's time mean" then?)

: : 2.(a short passage)
: : ?About 1 o'clock a storm came up suddenly. Before we had time to do anything, we were blinded by snow. After two hours of this, I realized I would have to do something to avoid being frozen to death. From time to time through the mist, and I had made out the outline of a dark buttress just above us; to descend in this wind was out of the question ; our only hope was to scramble up to this buttress, and dig out a platform on which we could put up our tent. We climbed to this place and started to cut away the ice. ....
: : (can "cut away" be replaced with "cut out"? what does it mean? what about "cut off"? i'm almost confused by these phrases!)

: 1. to better your previous best personal time.
: 2. to remove the ice. 'Cut away' is colloqially better than 'cut out' in this context, but both are acceptable. 'Cut off' won't really work here - it means to isolate something from something else, like a group of troops separated from the main unit.

A little more explanation, from a U.S. point of view:

Yes, "beat" means "outdo" in this context. To beat one's time or to better one's personal time means to run faster than one ever has before. In running, as in golf, a person tries to get a low "score." "Time" here means the number of minutes and seconds in which the runner completes a particular distance. The runner wants to achieve a smaller number this time than ever before.

"Cut out" would mean to remove ice from within something that surrounded it, even if that substance were more ice. You could use "cut out" to refer to scooping a middle section out of a block of ice. "Cut away" means to remove ice from the surface of something. It connotes that you're not interested in the part you remove; you remove it to clear the remaining part of it. So "cut away" means "trim."