A nickname for a New Englander.
“The eels of New England and the corncrackers of Virginia.” —Haliburton: Clockmaker.
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).
“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.)
“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.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894