The following passage from Planescape: Torment is when Ghysis the Crooked is describing the different demons that humans may make contracts with. What is the meaning of the word “peel” here? It seems like it could be a euphemism for “flay”, but I feel like it’s not meant that way here.
The man nods. “They don’t usually pay as much as th’ tanar’ri, but
they don’t break their written word. They’re smart, though – several
hundred, hundred, hundred fold smarter an’ they been makin’
contracts since time began. They know ‘ow ta peel someone with words,
they do. Sign, an’ most likely ye’ll be peeled an’ hung ta dry in
I tried checking Wiktionary and Oxford but didn’t see any definition that fit. The slang from this game is based on old English slang and rhyming slang, neither of which I am familiar with. So it may likely be an obscure use not listed in most dictionaries.
The same character also has the following dialogue containing the same usage of “peel”:
“Chances are when ye sign up, they peel ye so yer tour o’ duty is ’til
time itself grinds ta a ‘alt. Even death wouldn’t be a release, ’cause
then ye sink inta th’ Lower Planes an’ get dredged back up as
somethin’ worse’n ye were before. Then they got their talons on ye fer
It IS a metaphor for flaying, or at least skinning.
The key is to think of the two paragraphs referring to the baatezu as a whole. Here’s what’s written:
“they been makin’ contracts since time began. They know ‘ow ta peel someone with words, they do. Sign, an’ most likely ye’ll be peeled an’ hung ta dry in their legions… They plan like bastards. They put more thought an’ preparation into a single, strategic skirmish than most ‘uman armies devote to an entire campaign.”
The key point being made about the baatezu is that they make contracts and keep their word. Additionally, in the previous paragraph
- They know how to make contracts, they have a ton of experience. Their contracts are iron clad, and they stick to them.
- They’re obsessive planners. If they want you in the ranks, they’ll know EXACTLY what to put in the contract to tempt you.
- If you sign one of their contracts, you’ll “lose your shirt..” and everything else.
- They also know how to write a contract way open ended, so they can “stick to their bargain” while also locking you into their service for eternity, even after death.
- They are so good at writing contracts, the fact that the contract has been designed is as good as you having already signed it
In other words, they’re way better than you are at contracts, and so you’re guaranteed to be the party losing the most in any agreement with them. Their contracts are iron-clad and open-ended, and will “damn” you for eternity. If you sign, they’ll “flay you” metaphorically and take everything of value from you (if you’re lucky, if not, they’ll flay you literally.). They plan so well, they know exactly what to put in the contract to make you want to sign, so by even looking at the contract, you’re “as good as flayed.”
Baatezu “think beyond the sale” because they’re so well prepared, they know you’re going to sign before they approach you. By the time they’re talking to you, you’re as good as theirs, and therefore you’ve been “peeled by words.”