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Eel

A nickname for a New Englander.

“The eels of New England and the corncrackers of Virginia.” —Haliburton: Clockmaker.

Eel

A salt eel. A rope's end, used for scourging. At one time eelskins were used for whips.

“With my salt eele, went down in the parler, and there got my boy and did beat him.” —Pepys' Diary (April 24th).

Eel

(Anglo-Saxon, oel.)

Holding the eel of science by the tail.
That is, to have an ephemeral smattering of a subject, which slips from the memory as an eel would wriggle out of one's fingers if held by the tail.

“Cauda tenes anguillam, in eos apte dicetur, quibus res est cum hominibus lubrica fide, perflidisque, aut qui rem fugitivam atque incertam aliquam habent, quam tueri diu non possint.” —Erasmus: Adagia, p. 324. (1629.)

To get used to it, as a skínned eel, i.e.
as an eel is used to being skinned. It may be unpleasant at first, but habit will get the better of such annoyance.

“It ain't always pleasant to turn out for morning chapel, is it, Gig-lamps? But it's just like the eels with their skinning: it goes against the grain at first, but you soon get used to it.” —Cuthbert Bede [Bradley]: Verdant Green, chap. vii.

To skin an eel by the tail
is to do things the wrong way.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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