The Long Pinky Nail

Some men in China sport a long pinky fingernail. It is a little creepy. I don’t really understand. With all the nail clipping that goes on, why does this one not get the clip?

Enjoying a smoke at the Bund

Is it to clear your nose, ears or other parts of your body? Is it a weapon? A tool of some sort, a spoon? I have asked about it and was told it is a status symbol. A symbol to the world that they do not engage in hard labor for they can grow a long nail. Similar to the reason I was told why some Shanghainese wear their pajamas out in public. A symbol to the world they lead a life of leisure and don’t need to get dressed to go to work. I think in the status hierarchy the PJ sporters are of higher status than the long nail crowd. I had to so some research and came across this list of what folks have been told the nail is all about:

  • Drugs- cocaine, heroine, coke.
  • Booger scoop and earwax excavator.
  • In the old days in China, long fingernails were a sign you were rich and didn’t do manual labor. Now they grow out the pinkie as a sign of culture, breeding and wealth.
  • My Chinese students (all about 18 to 22) told me the nails are long so the little finger reaches past the last knuckle joint on the ring finger. If it does, you are rich and intelligent!
  • My 76-year-old uncle keeps one pinkie nail long and sharpened to open envelopes.
  • A sharpened, hardened nail is a dangerous weapon and can be a sign of prison time. Or of a man who opens a lot of envelopes.
  • General scratching and ear cleaning. The longer nail also works well when trying to pick up something lying flat on a table, like a coin.
  • My pinkie finger on both my hands is a bit longer than the other nails. Used for instruments.
  • The cashier at Subway had one nail grown long. I asked him why and he said he had a running competition with one of his friends as to who had the longest fingernail.
  • A Google search produced some interesting ones: that Picasso kept a long little fingernail for mixing paints, and that Turkish men commonly keep such a nail for opening cigarette wrappers.
  • On a Beijing subway I saw a guy with a long pinkie nail clean his nose and his ears with it. Right after he wiped his nail on the hand rail, someone grabbed it. Wonderful place, Beijing subways.

– The Straight Dope

Whatever the reason, it is a little creepy. Especially when the taxi driver is handing your change back. I don’t want it to touch me! I think that is the reason for the long nail, so the taxi driver can keep the change.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. David Mulvey
    May 18, 2012 @ 11:18:39

    Rebecca, I can’t believe it took me this long to discover this… I certainly plan, based on the 3 i’ve read to read them all. i do hope you’re going to publish this as a set down the road. David M

    Reply

  2. Sara Idermark
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 12:50:29

    After being in a relationship with one of the local guys… I know why..
    To pick and clean their ears and nose.. Yepp.. that’s why.. Creepy..
    Luckily my guy kept them short 🙂

    Reply

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