Briefly noted: NAILS

The name of a business establishment in this cartoon by Adam Douglas Thompson in the January 13th New Yorker:

A wry, and potentially ominous, play on the central ambiguity in the noun nail; and implicitly a reflection on how business establishments are named: what products or services are provided at a place called NAILS?

The ambiguity, from NOAD:

noun nail: 1 a small metal spike with a broadened flat head, driven typically into wood with a hammer to join things together or to serve as a peg or hook. 2 [a] a horny covering on the upper surface of the tip of the finger and toe in humans and other primates…

An establishment with the name NAILS merely has to be associated with, or in some way evoke, instances of one or the other of these things. No doubt the first such business that would come to the mind of a modern American is the nail salon. From Wikipedia:

A nail salon or nail bar is a specialty beauty salon establishment that primarily offers nail care services such as manicures, pedicures, and nail enhancements.

(The whole business is fabulously complex and culture-specific; imagine trying to explain what nail salons are to people in an isolated indigenous group in the Amazon rainforest.)

Or, using the other sense, NAILS might be a hardware store.

But much more is possible. NAILS might offer drag shows — love those fluorescent nails, honey — or it might be a rough biker bar — alluding to the idiom tough as nails. It might offer hard-core industrial rock, as a tribute to Trent Reznor. Or provide a place for toolshop projects. Or, omigod, provide a space where a masochist can be nailed to a cross. Or serve as a backroom to a gay bar, a place where a guy can go to get nailed. The possibilities are endless.

(ADT is new to this blog, and relatively new to the magazine; his first print cartoon in the New Yorker (“Selfie Spring Flowers”) was the daily cartoon for April 8th, 2019.)

One Response to “Briefly noted: NAILS”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    Then there are those mysterious handwritten ads in your Chinese grocery store that begin Cần thợ nails….

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