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What’s So Pink About Pinking Shears?

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Brian in San Antonio, Texas, wonders about the origin of the pinkingin the term pinking shears. Such shears cut an even, zigzag pattern that keeps cloth from fraying at the edges. Pinking likely comes from French piquer, meaning to “pierce” or “stick,” the source also of English piquant, “stinging” pique, which can mean a feeling of pierced or wounded pride. Pinking is also be related to Spanish picar, meaning “sting” or “prick,” the source of picante, or “spicy.” In the 16th century, to pink cloth meant to “poke decorative holes” in it, and by the 19th century, a pinking iron was used to apply decorative elements to cloth. In 1893, Louise Austin of Whatcom, Washington, received a patent for pinking shears. This is part of a complete episode.

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