When I first started working for NAILS 10 years ago, I was always careful to use only the term “nail technician” when talking or writing about the professionals in this industry. Carefully, I trained the editors never to use the word “manicurist” or even to shorten nail technician to “nail tech” (and never “tech” alone without a modifier) lest we offend our readership and assail the professionalism of the industry at large.

The term “manicurist” conjured up an image of Madge, in her blue uniform soaking the panels of an unsuspecting client in dish cleaning liquid, for heaven’s sake. Manicurist also had come to symbolize the perceived second class status of nail professionals, relegated to the back of the salon while the more important work was done by the true professionals — the hairstylists. So we didn’t say manicurist and we didn’t abbreviate.

Then at some point, we starting hearing the term “nail professionals.” It called to mind an old Phyllis Diller joke that she wanted to be called not a housewife, but a domestic engineer. Nail professional stuck around and is still popular. I here are a few hardcore individuals who have taken this to the extreme and like to be known as nail technologists (specializing in nail technology) or even onychologist (a specialist in the care of the fingernails).

The term most hated of all was “girls,” as in a salon owner talking about her team (not “staff”) of salon professionals. We were never to quote someone as saying. “My girls are the best in the business...” This adventure in industry vernacular seeped beyond what you were calling yourselves and got into what you called your services: fake nails and artificial nails became acrylics, then extensions, then finally enhancements.

Where was there to go after that but backwards? Now you hear the term manicurist as the self-description of the top techs in the industry. I’ve watched the beaming newly crowned Salon Owner of the Year talk about her “girls” and no one bats an eye.

I get the feeling that this new relaxed mood about terminology reflects a corresponding relaxation about whether you’re being taken seriously as professionals. You seem comfortable now that you’re indeed peers of your salon colleagues — the hairstylists and estheticians, I think that’s good. I bet it makes your job easier not having to worry about that. It certainly makes mine easier ... but I’ll keep the red pencil handy just in case.

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