A good day for trimming your nails

U 13.117-19: She had cut it that very morning on account of the new moon and it nestled about her pretty head in a profusion of luxuriant clusters and pared her nails too, Thursday for wealth.

Gerty MacDowell pared her nails, thinking of a rhyme which includes the line ‘Thursday for wealth’. Weldon Thornton (Allusions in Ulysses, 1982) recognizes the rhyme, but only knows it as a popular superstition relating to marriage:

Thursday For Wealth. This alludes to an old proverb or rhyme that supposedly tells what days of the week are good for marrying. The attributes of the days are widely different in various versions; I have seen versions that say ‘Monday for wealth’ or ‘Tuesday for wealth’, but none saying ‘Thursday for wealth’, though such probably exists. The rhyme usually begins ‘Monday for [...].’ (p. 307)

The Journal of American Folklore for 1918 (p. 207) has the marriage rhyme from Illinois:

Significance for wedding-days:

Monday for health,

Tuesday for wealth,

Wednesday the best day of all.

Thursday for losses,

Friday for crosses,

Saturday no day at all.

But in this version Tuesday is for wealth, and the end of the week isn’t recommended for weddings. Several pages on (p. 211), one of the contributors of this marriage rhyme (‘of English descent’) also knows another one, this time about the best days for paring your nails. And it’s a version of this rhyme that Gerty MacDowell knows:

Trim your nails on —

Monday for news,

Tuesday for shoes,

Wednesday for health,

Thursday for wealth,

Friday for woe,

Saturday, a journey to go.

Just the sort of rhyme to do the rounds of the popular magazines Joyce was soon to be scouring for Nausicaa.

John Simpson

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