The importance of nail shape

  • Dear Matthew Alice:
  • My wife and I come from different social backgrounds. I know this explains part of our marital difficulties, but I'm not sure it accounts for this one — she insists on letting her fingernails grow long and pointed, but tells me that her (and my) toenails have to be cut short and straight. Am I wrong to ask her to make both sets of nails normal length with a slight curve to each?
  • Emile Villarobia
  • Chua Vista

You may have hit the nail on the head.

Hippocrates's classic advice to cut nails "neither longer nor shorter than the ends of our fingers" hasn't been improved upon much over the centuries. Nails that are too long are susceptible to peeling and cracking as any pianist, typist, or automatic elevator operator can testify; and nails that are too short are no good for pick-up-sticks.

Your wife is right, though, about the shape of things. Rounded nails, simulating the tips of the fingers, are okay for fingernails. But the pressure of the body's wright, especially if it is added to pressure from tight or high-heeled shoes, will cause the sides of your toenaiis to dig into the marginal tissue. This "ingrown toenail," complicated by a secondary infection which soon occurs, could spread beneath the nail, extend into the lymphatic vessels, and eventually into the bloodstream.

Cutting your toenails straight may also have something to do with "toeing the line" and "walking a straight path." (But that's another story.)

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