January 27, 2007

A handy tool or a deadly weapon?

What did they use those pinkie nails for anyway?

There is something I see here in Honduras that has been baffling me. I see men, young and old, farmers and city boys, black and brown, respectable and maybe not so, who have this long pinkie fingernail. I mean really long.

What is that about? Is it for picking? Most really don't appear the type who would be using it for snorting coke. Our favorite water man quit the business and his new replacement has one. That's what brought it back to my mind. What on earth is it for?

(Later....) Not wanting to leave the article open-ended like that, I went to ask El Jefe. He started laughing before I even finished with the question. His first guess was for picking the nose and cleaning the ears. Eeeeeewwwww! Tell me it's not so!

His second guess was for scooping coke (the powdered kind, not the liquid), but I nixed that based on the people I've seen with it. His third guess was for something sexual. That also seems doubtful to me as I'm having a hard time imagining doing anything with a pinkie nail that wouldn't hurt or that couldn't be done better with another "tool."

I had another thought, maybe crazy, but I wondered if it could be some sort of status symbol, meaning that if you have a long pinkie nail it signifies that you don't do manual labor, the same way that women in many cultures value white or lighter skin as a sign of being upper class.

(Much later....) So, still unsatisfied, I went to my old friend Google who knows all. Sure enough: 83,200 results for "long pinkie nail." Not only that, but the first one covered all the bases.

The straight dope tells us that our first guess was probably right. In fact all of our guesses are possibilities. The few that we didn't guess probably wouldn't apply to the people I've seen:
Opening envelopes − not in Honduras, no mail.
Playing guitar − I doubt it, there can't be that many guitar players here.
Sign of a pimp − I don't think so.
Opening shrink wrap − No shrink wrap on the water bottles.
Dangerous weapon − A possibility I suppose.
I am so going to be checking out fingernails before I ever shake hands with anyone again!
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