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I Broke a Nail

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Drakken: But, Shego, we escaped with the E.M.A. unscathed.
Shego: [crying] Yeah, but I broke a nail!
Drakken: I break mine all the time; you don't see me crying. Not on the outside.

Stock phrase of the City Mouse, Fallen Princess, Rich Bitch, Alpha Bitch or, more stereotypically, the token woman. Sometimes used by the Action Girl after a particularly grueling fight in which this is the only injury she is concerned about. In any case, the character is Always Female unless it's a deliberate play on the trope. The phrase is, of course, used to show off how petty or vain she is, especially if it's used in the face of more pressing concerns. It may also be a Berserk Button for her.

Most Writers Are Male, with short-clipped nails that rarely if ever get broken in contrast to the longer and more vulnerable nails women are likely to have. As a result, it took a long time for women to get across that a nail can be broken more badly than just spoiling her manicure. They can be ripped right back to the finger, damaging the cluster of nerves at the tip and causing bleeding. Simply put, broken nails hurt, and that's why she's crying. It can also lead to a hangnail, which can easily get infected. Nowadays, it's used more as a joke than anything, often by an Action Girl who's just been in a fight to show how tough she is that this is all the damage the guys could do to her. Because of this, it's become a Discredited Trope.

Sometimes guys use it to show that they're very vain. Occasionally, this is used as an insult toward the rich, that they would fret about breaking a nail if they were outdoors, or otherwise tasked with work.

Compare Minor Injury Overreaction, which this is a subtrope of. For serious injury to the nail, look under Fingore. When this happens to toenails, look up Agony of the Feet.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Faye, expecting a fight, once pulls on a pair of gloves specifically to avert this trope.
  • The dub of Digimon Adventure gives spoiled brat Mimi this line in one episode.
  • Dragon Ball: After Krillin and Goku have to plow fields with their bare hands as part of Roshi's training Krillin mentions that he think his fingernails are falling out.
  • Said word for word by Ayako in the manga of Ghost Hunt.
  • Ludwig Revolution doubly subverts this: The title character, Prince Ludwig (obviously male), who is always pictured to pay a lot of attention to his looks and is directly said to be incredibly vain, breaks his nail while shooting at a monster (his love interest) in order to save his male servant. The servant starts screaming: "Prince, you broke your finger nail! It's bleeding!" To which the Prince replies: "Who cares about one or two nails..."
  • Pet Shop of Horrors: Count D, a male, breaks a nail once. He proceeds to bandage his whole hand.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Downplayed. Leon’s Royal Brat older sister Jenna gets upset over getting her nails dirty when she has to help on the family farm as punishment for having been threatened into planting a bomb on Leon’s Mini-Mecha before a duel.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics sometimes uses this trope with Veronica. In one comic, she screeches hysterically, causing a crowd to gather who think she must be gravely injured, only to reveal that a broken nail was the cause; when Archie gives her No Sympathy, she's outraged and declares that only women have compassion, all the while ignoring a skateboard accident that leaves Archie bruised all over.
  • In the course of Secret Wars (1984), when all of Marvel's greatest heroes were transported out of the galaxy for an apocalyptic war of good and evil when the winsome Wasp discovered a broken nail after a space-ship dogfight. "... and there isn't an Emory board for a million light years!"
  • When a small team of different Supergirl incarnations break Superman out of the Source Wall in Superman/Batman #25, Power Girl mutters this, then quickly adds she was kidding.
  • Benoit Brisefer: A rare male version, played for laughs, occurs when the protagonist, a super-strong little boy punches his way through a boulder to escape a collapsed mine.
    Benoit: Crud. I broke a nail.

    Comic Strips 
  • Beetle Bailey: This turns out to be the reason Sgt. Louise Lugg mauled a guy so badly while playing American football. The trope is played straight (it's not a very recent strip) and she's shown "emotionally" crying over it; the comic in general repeatedly plays with her combination of masculine aggressiveness and feminine sensitivity.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Used by Georgette in Disney's Oliver & Company. Which is slightly weird, considering that she's a dog. With dogs though, she would actually be underreacting - it's far worse for dogs than it is for a human.
  • Cinderella: Drizella sings a line about this when cleaning dishes during the third film.
  • In Superman/Batman: Apocalypse:
    Kara: I've been chased, shot at, kidnapped, beaten up, had my mind controlled and I broke a nail.
    • She's a Kryptonian under a yellow sun. Her fingernails should be practically indestructible, so some impressive forces were at work there, and that's very possibly the only actual injury she took in that whole ordeal.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Early in the 1940 film My Little Chickadee, Mae West's character, Flower Belle, calmly and cooly forces a tribe of Indians who are attacking her train to retreat with a few sharp shots from revolvers akimbo and a shotgun. Her response to a well-deserved congratulations?
  • Angel from The Fifth Commandment lets out a variant after barely surviving a shootout. "I need a manicure and a pedicure as soon as I get back."
  • Willie Scott uses this line twice in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The first time she only "cracked" a nail, rather than actually breaking it, but that was still apparently a good enough excuse for her to practically throw Indy's gun out the side of the car.
  • Inverted in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. ("I didn't even break a nail.")
  • Vala Mal Doran in Stargate: The Ark of Truth: "Look at my hands, all right? They are raw and bleeding. I've broken every nail. We've been out here in the scorching heat for days. I haven't showered!"
  • Ladybugs: "Get those nail-breakers! Get those nail breakers!"
  • DOA: Dead or Alive: "Perfect. Broke another nail."
  • Tremors: "Doesn't matter. They're all the same: dead weight. 'Ooh, I broke a nail!' Ugh! Makes my skin crawl."
  • Troop Beverly Hills: "The parents here are so self-involved. Shit, I broke a nail!"
  • This is done to a lesser extent in the movie Lost in Space where Dr. Smith attempts to smuggle himself on board the Jupiter Two in a crate. The crane abruptly stops, causing him to fall over and immediately afterwards he glances at his nails and makes an annoyed little sound.
  • In the action movie/porn film Barb Wire, after having a hand to hand to guns to stiletto heels to groin fight and killing a whole crapload of men, Barb Wire (played by Pamela Anderson) looks at her hand, on which is a broken nail:
    Barb: Goddammit...
  • Erin Brockovich: "Goddamnit!" — Erin shortly after breaking her nail getting into the car, and shortly before getting T-boned.
  • A variant is played with in Spaceballs, where the mooks, Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy graduates all, somehow manage to singe Princess Vespa's hair... which elicits a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Barf says "Not bad... for a girl"; Vespa's Robot Maid counters with "That was pretty good for Rambo!"
  • Batman Returns: Batman vs. Catwoman. When Batman pushes Catwoman off him, she ends up in a pile of broken plant pots. Batman removes the sharp metal nail from his suit and tosses it at her. Catwoman picks it up and examines her hand back to front and lets out an irritated "Damn..."
  • The Butchers: When the resurrection spell is cast, there is an earthquake that shakes the entire Ghost Town. As it ends, Nicole lets out an ear piercing shriek, that makes everyone think she has suffered some terrible injury. It turns that she broke a nail when she fell to the floor. Only her friend Candi gives her any sympathy.
  • Invoked in Ladybugs, a Rodney Dangerfield movie where he becomes the coach of a girls' soccer team sponsored by his company. In the climactic championship match, one of the no-nonsense rival players knocks over one of the girls from the titular Ladybugs, who shouts "Mom! Those bitches broke my nail!" The player's mother and everyone in the stands chants "Get those nail-breakers!", which rouses the Ladybugs to victory.

  • In Geronimo Stilton, Secret Agent, Geronimo is trying to distract his archrival Sally Ratmousen, but the only thing that works is when he tells her she has a broken pawnail.
  • Played with in The Malloreon by David Eddings, when C'nedra and Zakath are riding through Mal Zeth. They encounter a soldier who had been busted down from Corporal to Private for being drunk on duty. Zakath asks C'nedra what he should do (the Alorns have been giving him lessons in how to not be a tyrant), and her reply is "Hang him. Drat, I broke a nail." Her apparent cold-bloodedness shocks Zakath, and then she explains that condemning the man then pardoning him will do more to convince him not to drink anymore than any amount of punishment. She also suggests building a gallows just outside his window, at which point Zakath turns to Garion and asks why they ever got married. (Garion's response is that they didn't have a say in the matter.)
  • In the fourth Artemis Fowl book, there is a gnome who is so out of shape, he has to lie down if he gets a hangnail. And LEP orders him to try to stop Holly Short. Who is pissed off and just lost her father/mentor/commander and is getting framed for his murder. Safe bet's the gnome winning.
  • "From the Diary of a New York Lady" by Dorothy Parker:
    The most terrible thing happened just this minute. Broke one of my finger nails right off short. Absolutely the most horrible thing I ever had happen to me in my life. Called up Miss Rose to come over and shape it for me, but she was out for the day. I do have the worst luck in the entire world. Now I'll have to go around like this all day and night, but what can you do? Damn Miss Rose.
  • Played with in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
  • In the Action Prologue of The Takers by Jerry Ahern, Sonia Steiglitz breaks a nail while pursuing a woman who has the MacGuffin they're searching for, and gives a To the Pain description of what she did to the horse that threw her and made her break a nail, notably cutting its tendons so it died of thirst and starvation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in Lizzie McGuire. In the Breakfast Club episode, Kate refuses to help clean the school cafeteria. Lizzie's animated alter ego sarcastically suggests that she's afraid of breaking a nail. Then the real Kate gives that as an actual reason, forming an Ironic Echo Cut.
  • In The Facts of Life, Blair punches another girl for insulting Jo. She later says "I broke a nail for you!" as if that were more of a sacrifice than getting in trouble for decking someone in school (which, for Blair, it is).
  • That's So Raven: Raven has a vision, at a highly inopportune time, of this happening to Chelsea. When it comes true, Chelsea claims, "I don't even care," but Raven's new telepathic friend says, "Yes, you do."
  • Australian Gladiators: "Ouch! I broke a nail! Gotta stop punching those brick walls."
  • Saved by the Bell:
    • In an early episode, Lisa Turtle gets frustrated during an interrogation — and breaking a nail makes her frustration even worse.
    • Also, in another episode, she tells Nikki that she also doesn't want to dissect frogs — but that, instead of sharing Nikki's concern for the welfare of animals, she just doesn't want to ruin her nails. However, she doesn't care that much — that she would risk getting an F.
  • Gilligan's Island: In a Season 1 episode when a battle of the sexes forces the girls and guys to live on separate sides of the island, the girls are finding doing all the work harder than they expected.
    Ginger: I've broken eleven nails today.
    Mary Anne: Eleven?
    Ginger: I broke one twice.
  • At the start of the Stargate SG-1 episode "Urgo", the team set off on an apparently dull mission and Jack comments that "It's all fun and games until someone breaks a nail."
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy uses this when trying to get the attention of Giles, who is preoccupied because he just learned in a prophecy that Buffy will die tonight.
    • Cordelia has also used this more than once.
  • Used as a plot point in the season 1 episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, "The Extra Man". The first person to find out the body of the Victim of the Week breaks a nail by stumbling in the dark (and says the trope name), cluing Goren that there was a woman present when he finds the red-polished nail shard.
  • Myrtle Urkel says this trope after falling down from Eddie's window in a Family Matters episode.
    Myrtle Urkel: Oh, shoot. I broke a nail.
  • Life with Boys: A friend of Tess was worried that, being on the wrestling team, Tess could suffer cuts, break bones, or a nail.
  • Happened once in House of Anubis
    Patricia: I hope the sight of us working hard doesn't bother you.
    Eddie: You're a couple of strong, 21st century women. What do you need my help for?
    Amber: I broke a nail...
    Eddie: Go sisterhood!
  • Happened on The Amazing Race. It appears to be a Minor Injury Overreaction, until you realize the girl who did it actually was bleeding — mind you it hurt on top of that.
  • Similarly, a contestant split her fingernail on Survivor... but with a machete. The medical team actually came and took a look at it.
  • Naturally, Sadie: Sadie says it in "Advanced Girl Lessons" when she is attempting to become more feminine. Played With when she then admits that she has no idea what she is supposed to do about it.
  • Power Rangers Lost Galaxy: this happens twice to Big Bad Trakeena. The first time (back when she was still Daddy's Little Villain and more concerned with her apperances than anything else) it happens when she practices her fighting skills with some stingwingers. One of them accidently breaks one of her nails and she angrily vaporizes the Stingwinger in retaliation. The second time it happens during her Training from Hell with Villamax, who simply responds to her angry reaction that he only has 9 to go then.
    • Also happens to Nadira in Power Rangers Time Force during a battle with the Rangers. Naturally she goes whining to Ransik about it and rather than explain the absurdity of using your fingernails as weapons against sword-wielding superheroes, he promises to make them pay...and we're not talking about for a new manicure, either.
  • Parodied in True Jackson, VP, while True was searching for a horse that was visiting her boss, and she lost in the office, she heard Amanda screaming, but when she arrived she said she broke a Nail. When True pointed that her nails where perfect, Amanda explained that it actually happened a month ago..."but I'm still haunted by the memory".
  • Fort Boyard: Celebrity contestant Sally Gray notices that she has broken a nail when she is hanging upside down on the outer wall of the fort.

  • Discussed in "Honey I'm Home" by Shania Twain.
    I broke a nail opening the mail
    I cursed out loud, 'cause it hurt like hell

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Upon their first meeting on Thursday Night Smackdown, Christie Hemme, accidentally broke one of Melina's, leading to Melina screaming for revenge and demanding a match with Hemme. While Melina was a cheat, she was one of the few wrestlers not to used closed fist and made use of her nails much less that most female cheats (until she got into title contention and changed up her style)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer: The magazine White Dwarf once mentioned Sigvald the Mighty, whilst butchering a priest, chipping a nail on his armor. Sigvald immediately vowed revenge on the Empire for this "hideous deformity".

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In the old PC game Battle Chess, the Queen says this during her tutorial after defeating another piece.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3 EVA's medical history shows a long list of cuts, blows, gunshot wounds, and one broken nail.
  • The aerial racing game Slipstream 5000 featured a British racer named Victoria, who when her ship was shot would say, over the racewide frequency, "Oh, I broke a nail."
  • The Witch class from Yggdra Union will occasionally say this after taking damage.
  • Renee from Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis refuses to help Tony fight Flay at the beginning of the game because she just had her nails done, and she doesn't want to ruin them.
  • Spoiled Rich girl Skie in Baldur's Gate says this as one of her "command received" lines. It gets very tedious very quickly.
  • The last words spoken by Maria in GTA III, which pisses off the player character so much that, having just saved her life, he either shoots her or fires a shot to shut her up.
  • In League of Legends, Leona has this line as one of her jokes. To quote, "I think I broke a nail. Good thing it wasn't mine."
  • The Extreme Weapons Pack, a humorous Game Mod for Doom, actually has this happen to you if you use your punch attack too many times, resulting in an extremely long animation where Doomguy cuts and polishes the nail.
  • In Might and Magic VII, the Red-Headed Elf (default figure for the Sorceror) says this sometimes after detonating a trap or mixing an (accidentally) explosive potion.
  • At one point in Trials of Mana, Angela complains about breaking a nail after being blasted out of a cannon and crashing into the ground.
  • In Magic and Mayhem, Ariadne says this on one level when her health gets down to 50%. In later levels, she switches to "Help me, Cornelius!"
  • Batman: Arkham City, as a Call-Back to when Batman saved Catwoman from Two-Face early in the game (the following exchange is after Catwoman finds Batman in the middle of wreckage at the Steel Mill):
    Catwoman: Figured you could use my help.
    Batman: (completely deadpan) You're right. I think I chipped a nail back there.
    Catwoman: You stick to the brooding, I'll handle the wisecracks.
  • Played with in Saints Row: The Third. The Female One voice uses this line as a Bond One-Liner: "Damn, chipped a nail!"
  • There is a 30% chance that this will happen to a Sim in The Sims 4 with the High Maintenance trait from Spa Day while cooking, gardening, or woodworking.
  • According to one of the developers of Katawa Shoujo, a broken nail is what got Misha sent to Yamaku High School.
  • Velvet the Reindeer from Them's Fightin' Herds is a Long-Range Fighter who rarely deigns to use physical attacks on her opponents, preferring ice magic. When less elegant combat becomes necessary, she may complain that she "chipped a hoof".
  • The ending cutscene in SPY Fox Operation Ozone has Monkey Penny rescuing Spy Fox from Poodles Galore by breaking her fingernail with a kick. Poodles immediately gives up all while lamenting that she is hideous, with Monkey Penny handcuffing her.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In Noob, it happens to the player behind Couette (basically a walking female gamer stereotype) from typing too intensely on her keyboard.

    Western Animation 
  • A variant of this trope occurs in the Aaahh!!! Real Monsters episode "Krumm Gets Ahead" when Ickis breaks his claw while attempting to remove a screw from Krumm's prosthetic head.
  • The modern "you broke my nail — shit just got real" version happens in an episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks. A gang of bullies dominating the local roller rink has challenged the Seville rodents to a roller-derby race for rink use rights. Chippette Brittany scoffs at the immaturity the boys are all showing... until guess what one of the bullies accidentally does.
  • Stacey from American Dragon: Jake Long was once seen running scared by Jake and Trixie. Trixie said she'd probably complain about a broken nail. At first, it seemed the trope would be subverted as Stacey mentioned Huntsboys 88 and 89 capturing Spud but then she did complain about her broken nail. When Jake and Trixie went running to help Spud, Stacey thought they would call for someone to repair the broken nail.
  • In Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Raquelle panics over the fact that she got locked inside the Dreamhouse, and chipped "one of [her] color-change nails" while struggling to open the door.
  • Beverly Hills Teens:
    • The Alpha Bitch from falls down a balcony and shouts: "It's broken! It's broken! My nail!" Later we learn that she also broke her leg...
    • In an earlier episode, she herself shoved a girl, who went down shouting "I think you broke it". Another girl asks if she broke her finger. The answer is "Worse." Do we need to write her next sentence?
  • In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers in "Risky Beesness" episode when the queen bee and Zipper force their way out of a saxophone she complains: "Damn, I think I broke a nail." Her hair got messed too. Yes, she's a Fallen Princess Rich Bitch and she's just started to redeem herself.
  • In Code Lyoko, Odd makes fun of Sissi in his amateur movie Natural Grandeur by showing her as a giant and dubbing her as saying "Oh no, I broke a nail!" in a distorted voice.
  • Earthworm Jim features an opposite-personality counterpart of Princess Whatshername who used the line. Her creator then laments that making an opposite of the resident Action Girl was not the brightest idea he has had.
  • On Family Guy, shortly after getting in touch with his feminine side from going to a woman's camp, Peter mentions "oh fudge, I broke a nail".
  • In Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes, Johnny Storm breaks a nail and is somewhat upset over it...
  • A fight against Comrade Red in an episode of Justice Friends causes She-Thing to break a nail. Krunk's desperate attempts to calm her down make her even madder, and she subsequently goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, smashing everything in her line of sight.
  • Shego in Kim Possible did this once, in an episode where she was under the effects of a device that controlled her emotions. She would never cry at all otherwise, certainly not over something like a broken nail.
  • Road Rovers: Uttered by Blitz.
    Exile: Look! Parvo has gone kaput-ski!
    Blitz: Oh, how tragic.
    All: Huh?
    Blitz: I broke a nail.
  • In a Tiny Toon Adventures take on "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", where the Bear family lives in an ultra-modernized home, Mama Bear has a gadget (similar to an electric pencil sharpener) that instantly repairs a nail after breaking it while cooking "homemade" porridge in the microwave.
  • Total Drama:
    • While climbing the other guys in "The Chefshank Redemption" to get to the one ceiling exit out of the trailer, Justin is horrified to incur a hangnail.
    • In the exclusive clip for "Super Hero-ld", Leshawna theorizes that Harold voted her off because he was bullied into it. She rages through the Lame-o-sine at the thought of Duncan mistreating Harold, but calms down knowing there's nothing she can do for now. It's then that she realizes she broke a nail during her rampage.
  • In Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race, the Fashion Bloggers, Tom and Jen, have an argument over who started their blog in "[1]". During one of the challenges in that episode, Tom has to drag Jen while she's in a coffin to a graveyard. When Tom pushes Jen's coffin into an open grave, Jen complains about breaking three nails while Tom smiles smugly.
  • In Totally Spies!, Clover (the most feminine of the main three who cares the most about her appearance) sometimes gets upset over breaking one of her nails (to point of Skewed Priorities).
    • This has also happened to Clover's rival, Mandy, a couple of times—in one episode of the fourth season, it was enough for Mandy to ultimately become a villainess bent on world domination. And in an episode of the fifth season, Mandy got so upset over breaking one of her nails that she ends up passing out (which even Clover found ridiculously).

    Real Life 
  • A woman named Lee Redmond grew her fingernails out for thirty years to a length of two-and-a-half feet each, breaking the record for longest fingernails. In 2009, she was in a terrible car crash. She sustained severe injuries and broke off all of her nails. Upon finding out, she was devastated. She later discovered it was easier to manipulate objects without her giant talons.
  • Fear of committing this trope played straight and just one of this girl's issues with her new job. Averted by the girl who's been there a while.
  • Mocked in this iFunny page.
  • Losing a nail is actually a painful experience, particularly if it's only partly come off and a new one is growing trying to push the remains of the old one out. It's even worse if you're doing something that primarily involves your fingers, like playing video games (as happened to ProtonJon during his livestream of Pepsiman).
  • Even if you merely snap a long nail low enough that it does no damage to the nail bed, the torque required to do it is usually painful (equivalent to an extremely bad toe stubbing.) More than the pain, the inconvenience is annoying. If you're going to repair the nail so it's restored to the length of the others you're talking about possibly several hours of work that you didn't schedule into your life. If you're not going to restore it to match the others then you either have to trim the rest and lose several months of growth or put up with mismatched lengths. People with long nails usually adapt to using them as extended fingertips, especially for things like typing. Imagine your middle finger was suddenly half a fingertip shorter and consider what that might do to your typing. It's not the end of the world, but it genuinely is irritating.
    • If you have a vitamin D deficiency (while rare), this can actually happen a lot more easily as your nails become brittle.
  • The nails of animals can be much worse than those of humans when this trope occurs. Since many animal claws contain flesh and blood vessels within, and are anchored to the skeleton rather than the skin, a broken nail can be an extremely painful (not to mention bloody; seasoned professionals have described the floors around a pet with a "simple" torn claw as looking like a murder scene) affair. This is one reason many pets are terrified of having their nails clipped.


Video Example(s):


Kara Zor-El

Kara lists the bad things that have happened to her recently, ending with breaking a nail. Which is actually impressive, given that she's nigh-invulnerable.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / IBrokeANail

Media sources: