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Eel

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(Anglo-Saxon, œl.)

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 incertin aliquam habent, quam tueri diu non possint.”—Erasmus: Adagia, p. 324. (1629.)

To get used to it, as a skinned 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 ainʹt 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.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Ediles
Edith
Ednam
Edobe
Edward
Edwidge
Edwin
Edyrn
Eel
Eel
Eel
Eelkhance Tables
Effendi
Effigy
Effrontery
Egalité
Egeria
Egg. Eggs
Egg Feast
Egg-flip, Egg-hot, Egg-nog
Egg-on or Edge-on