Tuesday, 5 March 2013

WTF Mate!? Nail Slang for Newbies

Like many other hobbies, the polish community has a lot of terminology that can be pretty incomprehensible to newbies or outsiders. HG, undies, lemmings – it can sound like a whole other language at first. For your entertainment and education, I collected a short list of the most commonly misunderstood terms, and presented them to my boyfriend to see how many someone with no knowledge at all of the polish community could guess. Let’s see how he did!

Bin Diving/Dusty Hunting
BBG: Like dumpster diving, but for nail stuff
Answer: More or less, correct. Bin diving and dusty hunting is the practice of scrounging through bargain bins in search of hard to find, or just awesome polishes that have been overlooked by other people.

BBG: This has to be something to do with putting on polish. Like, dabbing it on?
Answer: Correct! Dabbing is a technique used for applying very glittery polishes, and is done pretty much exactly how it sounds like it would be. Great for maximising glitter coverage!

BBG: Someone you conned into selling you something for way less than it’s worth.
Answer: Incorrect! A dupe is a close replica of another polish, often cheaper or easier to find than the original polish. For example, if you can’t get hold of Deborah Lippman’s Across The Universe, you could get a dupe like Sally Hansen’s Mermaid’s Tale or Essence Blue Addicted because they look very similar.

BBG: The person in charge of a community, like a boat captain?
Answer: Incorrect. A Helmer is an IKEA-made storage cabinet with six drawers, that is particularly good for storing polish. How much polish a Helmer holds is a riddle that plagues nail communities, but the most common answer is, "Not enough".

BBG: Huge Glitter? Hairy Goat? Handsome Giraffe?
Answer: You can tell he’s getting a little tired of not knowing the answers already. HG stands for Holy Grail, and refers to any product that is the absolute best in your opinion: the best topcoat, the greatest glitter on earth, the perfect nail file…you get the idea.

BBG: Something to do with TV channels, like VHS
Answer: Incorrect. These terms are used for polishes that are difficult to find; they might be discontinued, limited edition, or maybe they’re just not available in your country. HTF stands for Hard To Find, and VHTF is Very Hard To Find. If you see these tags on an eBay listing, prepare to dip into your savings.

Hungry Polish
and Glitter Food
BBG: Polish that needs you to rub protein powder into the surface? Is Glitter Food the protein powder?
Answer: Incorrect - it's a lot less creepy than it sounds. Hungry Polish is polish with a LOT of glitter in it, which often dries to a bumpy surface. Glitter Food is any topcoat thick and oozy enough to get into all the gaps, "feeding" the polish, allowing it to dry to a smooth, shiny surface. There is also a topcoat by Nail Pattern Boldness named “Glitter Food” for this purpose.

BBG: Adding something to dead polish to make it live again.
Answer: Sort of. Frankening is the practice of mixing polishes to make a new creation, like mixing paints until they are exactly the right colour. Often people will mess around with frankens before embarking on creating their own polishes from scratch.

BBG: ISO is a file extension for disc images - Is this a picture of the whole bottle, or something?
Answer: Incorrect, but honestly, this one threw me for a long time too, because this acronym is used quite often in other circles to mean something completely different. In the nail polish world, this acronym simply means In Search Of, and is used in wanted ads.

BBG: Someone who joins in a sale because everyone else is, even though they can't really afford it.
Answer: Incorrect. A lemming is a polish that you really, really want, but don’t yet have. Maybe it's HTF, maybe you're just broke. Either way, getting your paws on this polish is called "squashing a lemming", for fairly obvious reasons.

Nail Mail
BBG: This isn’t actually packages full of nails, is it? Because that’s some Clive Barker imagery right here.
Answer: Incorrect, and creepy. Nail mail is parcels full of polish, tools, whatever delightful nail-related goodies that arrive on your doorstep and make your day. People in nail communities (ie. me) often get so excited they post pictures of these parcels, to share the excitement around.

BBG: A collection of pink polishes
Answer: Incorrect. Nubbins is an affectionate nickname for short, square nails – they’re sort of nubs, so being the adorable people they are, the nail community lengthened this to nubbins.

BBG:That's me, isn't it?
A: Ding ding, correct! A nuggle is someone new to the world of nails, or someone relatively inexperienced. It's probably pretty obvious, but for the sake of clarity, the term is a play on Muggles, used in the Harry Potter books to refer to people who can't do magic.

BBG: Gluing postage stamps to your nails to make a design.
A: An interesting nail art idea, but incorrect. Stamping is a technique for decorating your nails. Basically, you use plates with various designs on them, and a rubber stamping tool to transfer the designs onto your nails. It's mostly used for designs that look amazing, but that only a total genius could manage to create with a brush.

BBG: I know this one! It's like what you do with paint, right?
Answer: Mostly correct - it’s a test of what a polish looks like when you wear it, as opposed to in the bottle, just like painters will do with paint. If someone is selling on a polish, they will often use SW (swatched) to indicate that it’s been used previously, but only to paint one hand, or a couple of nails, to test it out rather than doing a full manicure.

BBG: Didn’t a guy get thrown off Big Brother a couple of years ago for doing this?
Answer: So very incorrect. Teabagging is a technique for fixing broken nails with a teabag – there will be a whole article explaining exactly how, so suffice to say it has nothing to do with genitals of any kind, just an actual tea bag.

BBG: Uuuuum…those things you have on right now?.
Answer: Incorrect! Despite what a lot of nuggles think, when we talk about undies we aren’t actually referring to special panties/knickers that we wear while polish shopping, or painting your nails. We are in fact not talking about any kind of lingerie at all. Undies/Underwear in the polish world refers to polishes that are good to wear under other polishes. Just as some dresses can be a little too transparent, so are some amazing polishes. The solution in both cases is undies.

BBG: Very Nice Lady? Very Nasty Legs? Veronica's New Lock?
Answer: Wrong, wrong, and wrong. VNL stands for Visible Nail Line, and refers to the way some polishes are transparent enough to see where the nail hangs out over the edge of your finegr. Opinion is divided on whether this is a good or bad thing - personally I LOATHE it, but some people don't mind it, particularly if you're using something like a nice soft subtle pink.

So my boy didn’t do particularly well – 3 out of a possible 18, only because I gave him half marks for two of them - but that’s only to be expected from a nuggle. How many did you guess right?

Cassie is a thirty something Sydneysider, who can be found spouting her endless opinions all over the internet. Her opinions are largely confined to The Reluctant Femme at present, but if you feel like you need a constant stream of it, she can also be found on Twitter (@anwyn).


  1. why are there not any comments!!!!! This is an amaznigly funny and witty post - thanks Cassie!

    1. Thanks!! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    2. I totally agree with you! This was very well written and amusing at the same time!

  2. So funny, now I want to see if my boyfriend can guess them all! Haha

  3. Love it, Cassie! Witty and informative, just like all of your blog posts!

  4. Haha love it!!! And I learnt a few things too!! For some reason I thought lemming meant everyone had it but me! Well now I know the truth!!!

    1. Well, that could be WHY you're lemming it :) Another possible interpretation is that you want it because everyone else wants it, like lemmings running off a cliff.

  5. Oh lordy lord! I wish I could write like you Cas! That was awesome, and cudo's to the boyfriend, he did really well.....sort of :)

    1. I'm just happy he let me put this up on the internet for all to see :D

  6. Awesome post - I've learnt heaps, thanks Cassie! Your boyfriend did a great job sitting through the test -my hubby will just quote your title and go away~

  7. Thanks so much, this post is awesome!!!!!!

  8. I thought 'Lemmings' meant everyone else wants it/has it and you do too! (as in 'Lemmings' the old PC game where they 'followed' each other)

    1. I used to LOVE Lemmings. I had the codes written down for each level and everything.

  9. This is so funny!!I'll test my boyfriend,haha

  10. Hahahaha Cassie I loved your partners responces! Very funny and very informative! A great LoOz post!

  11. Absolutely loved this post and the whole blog! Have to admit I'm still a nuggle for a few of those terms... very enlightening!

  12. Me and my husband had fun with this one! well I had fun laughing at his answers atleast! lol he did good. He got 8 1/2 right but only because he has heard me using these words. Thanks ladies for a great post and a great blog!

  13. I love this! I would love share a link to this article on my blog, if that's okay with you!

    1. Of course, we're glad you enjoyed it! Just make sure you credit us and Cassie, and link back to this post :)

  14. Hello from the future - lol! Although I'm commenting two years after you posted this, I just wanted to say, thanks - it definitely made me smile at the same time as being informative, and just as relevant here in May 2015 :-D
    On a kinda 'off-topic' note, though, I really don't advise searching the web trying to answer the 'why do we call them lemmings?' question - seriously, I got one helluva shock discovering the unpalatable truth behind *that* particular legend.... all I can say is, I now really, *really* want to call those elusive shades I've got eBay searches on, something else entirely... :'(


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