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Increasingly over the last few years, UK supermarkets and grocers have offered us things called 'Easy Peelers' (also easy-peelers, and in one case I've seen, easypeelers).

It's a generic term that covers a number of similar citrus fruits, including satsumas, tangerines, clementines and the like. As far as I can tell, they use it to cover seasonal variations (satsumas aren't available all year round, but there's always something on the easy-peeler shelf). It enables them to introduce 'unfamiliar' varieties (what the hell's a minneola?), and to offer some continuity to their less discriminatory customers. In my opinion, it's now a very well understood, albeit regional, term.

The meaning is clear enough: This fruit "peels easily", in other words it can be peeled easily. And for many years, apple varieties have been described as 'eaters' or 'cookers'. Meanwhile, "Easy-to-peel" is an adjectival phrase with some history.

"Peeler" was a name given to proto-police officers, of course, and is still used as a slang term in that sense today. It's also applied to kitchen implements, such as 'potato peelers'. Neither of these is similar to the usage of "easy-peeler".

My vivid imagination has conjured up a particulary skilled stripper who might be called a 'thrilling peeler' - but then it's him who's doing the peeling. An orange doesn't peel itself.

So, might this represent a new usage of the verb "to peel"?

"How does that banana peel?"

"Very nicely, thanks."

Dictionaries (eg Merriam-Webster) offer examples of its use as an intransitive verb ("his face is peeling") as well as transitive ("peeling the label off the can"). And of course there's the passive(?) sense "to be peeled". But for the life of me I can't find an example of it used in this way. (I'm possibly mistaken, as it doesn't feel wildly unnatural.) Can anyone else come up with one?

EDIT - @Rathony has immediately found more examples, and the relevant definition:

verb 1.2 [NO OBJECT] (Of a fruit or vegetable) have a skin that can be removed:

specifically with reference to peels easily. Is there any sign that it has been, or could be, used with another adverb?

In my defence, I'll say that this definition doesn't appear in most of the online resources. But I can see now the validity of a sentence like:

Oranges peel, but coconuts don't.

To re-iterate, it's not the same as the intransitive

His sunburnt skin is peeling very painfully.

or

The wallpaper is peeling because of the damp.

as it specifically refers to the actions of another entity: the peeler. Compare also with "Will It Blend?"

  • This adds nothing to the curious use of it as a verb you describe, but for natives of the Northern Neck of Va, no list of “peeler”(as a noun) is complete w/out its use to mean crabs that have begun to “sluff”/shed (slough/molt as tourists would write/say). Curiously (& unfortunately for the purposes of your question), “peelers” (which become “busters” just before escaping their old shells [‘sluffs’/sloughs] as soft-shells) don’t “peel” in this process (they sluff/shed). Once re-hardened they can, of course, be steamed, ‘peeled’ (I say picked), & eaten (miam), but that’s just the normal usage. – Papa Poule Oct 16 '15 at 14:16
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Oxford Dictionary has this example used in that way:

The fruit peels easily and has a nice balance of tang and sugar.’

Wiktionary has even more examples. No. 4 seems to be the closest to the meaning:

3.(intransitive) To become detached, come away, especially in flakes or strips; to shed skin in such a way. I had been out in the sun too long, and my nose was starting to peel.

4.(intransitive) To remove one's clothing. The children peeled by the side of the lake and jumped in.

5.(intransitive) To move, separate (off or away) The scrum-half peeled off and made for the touchlines.

  • Ah yes. I was being a bit dim, and should have read more widely. Not sure about #4 though - as with my stripper, the children are doing the peeling. – JHCL Oct 16 '15 at 10:54
  • @JHCL Wiktionary shows that the word derived from Old French pel ‎(“skin”) (Modern French peau), from Latin pellis ‎(“skin”). If you liken clothes to peel, then it works. – user140086 Oct 16 '15 at 11:14
  • I'm happy to accept this, as it addresses my question "is this a new usage?" with the clear answer "No." Further thoughts and comments are welcome, though. – JHCL Oct 16 '15 at 11:30

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