An antonym for peel would be to unpeel, to put the skin back on. I am not looking for that, but rather, for something that extracts and retains whatever is valuable or central or essential or edible from something -- what would be left after you peels something, or what you get by removing the center of something with a spoon. (Is there a word for words that are in this kind of opposition, I wonder?)

"Pith" and "core," as verbs, both come close to what I am looking for, but in common usage both suggest that it is that object that has been cored or pithed that we value, want, and intend to keep. I am hoping for a word that is like "core," but suggests that it is the core we intend to keep. I want to set up an opposition between two actions, peel and "X," the first of which removes a small valuable piece or layer from a useless bulk, contrasted to removing an essential or valuable core or mass from a useless coating or after discarding a valueless dross.

My goal is to find a pair of words to serve as a mnemonic for a more abstract pair of actions that applies to certain data structures, as in:

The peel() function extracts the listed elements from the data structure, while the "X"() function returns a full copy of the data structure after discarding the listed elements.

I spent some time paging through a couple of thesauruses looking at antonyms for peel and synonyms for core or pith, all three as verbs, and did not find anything useful.

The problem of both "peel" and "core," for my purposes, is that the usual implication for what you value in performing the actions is backwards. I want an alternative or pair of alternative that says when I peel something, I do it because I want the peel (and am discarding the core), and when I core something, I do it because I want the core (and am discarding the peel).

This question analogizes my data structures to fruit or the like, but I am open to entirely different metaphors so long as they set up the opposition between two actions, one removing and keeping a small valuable piece from a valueless bulk, and the other keeping a valuable bulk while discarding valueless elements.

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    Can you explain why are you are using verbs. Don't non-Boolean functions usually have noun mnemonics? Wheat() and Chaff() sound like they'd work, but only if these are functions that return the wheat or the chaff, and not procedures (methods) that simply change the state of things. – remarkl Feb 12 '19 at 4:32
  • My first thought was "enucleate", but then I'm not a normal person. – anongoodnurse Feb 12 '19 at 4:40
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    Is there a reason why your own extract doesn't work? That seems to have all the connotations you want. – 1006a Feb 12 '19 at 5:57
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    @remarkl, thanks for your thoughts. In the programming/language community I am working in, the convention is that objects are nouns and functions are verbs. – andrewH Feb 12 '19 at 6:57
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    Would gut work? The figurative sense fits your context also. OED definition for the fig. sense: "In various applications; esp. to get out the essential contents of (a book); to extract all the important passages of (a book) in a review or abridgement." – ermanen Feb 12 '19 at 17:39

Permit me to suggest hulling or depulping, both terms from the processing of coffee beans, admirably summarized in this Wikipedia article.

Coffee is a product well known to computer programmers, and lends itself to many subtle jokes for livening up your code, such as having a copy() method and a kopi() method, alluding of course to kopi luwak.

Depending on your application, you could model your entire data flow on coffee processing. I imagine this has already been done somewhere, but there’s probably still some room for creative action, at an appropriate level of granularity, and on solid technical grounds.

  • I quite like the idea of building a metaphor around coffee. Data as coffee seems more apt than data as fruit. But I don't think the particular words you offer work for my application. I am going to keep using peel and core though these words suffer from the same defect, which I am going to add to my question above: when you peel something, it is because you want the peel; and when you core something, it is because you want the core. – andrewH Feb 12 '19 at 7:09
  • There is also the pomegranate: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomegranate. Less familiar than coffee though. – Global Charm Feb 12 '19 at 8:51

As these are function names you could just add "get" to the front of each noun to give a non-english "verb" in each case so you would have GetPeel() and GetCore().

Alternatively you could use a nut analogy and have GetShell() and GetKernel() but you would probably confuse Unix people horribly!

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    Sorry, these would be fine on an appropriate programming forum, but they don’t make good English terms. – Lawrence Feb 12 '19 at 11:26

You could use the non-food-related word mine to indicate extracting the valuable part. Or possibly the more aggressive hew meaning to hack away the unnecessary parts.


After reading all these responses, I realised that all I have to do to make my original words work is to reverse which one does what. This puts what is valuable and what is valueless on the right side of the equation. So "peel" meeas to retain a valuable core, and "core" means to keep a valuable peel.

Well, I'm still not entirely happy with it, but this is the best I have been able to come up with so far.

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