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September 20, 1965

Correct Nomenclature of the Fingers

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Delaware Hospital. Inc.. Wilmington (Dr. Metzger), St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co., Baltimore (Mr. Hallock), and Wise & Suddard. Attorneys at Law. Wilmington, Del (Mr. Suddard).

JAMA. 1965;193(12):1030-1032. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090120038009

As often as the term "correct" is used, it is true L that many find it difficult to give a precise and clear definition of the sense in which they use it. Correctness implies a standard of reference so descriptions of the fingers are "correct" or "incorrect" according to the use to which each is put. It is acceptable for the teacher of a stringed musical instrument to exclude the thumb and number the other digits 1, 2, 3, and 4 (Fig 1), while at the same time, and equally acceptable, a piano teacher describes the digits, beginning with the thumb, as 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (Fig 2). Unfortunately, it is not acceptable when courts of law and acts of compensation are similarly confusing, often to the point of adversely influencing employment of the handicapped.1

Such ambiguity has led to a familiar difficulty in medical and paramedical

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