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Q: Use of the French word 'biscornu' ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Use of the French word 'biscornu'
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: hydrangea20-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 25 Oct 2006 09:10 PDT
Expires: 24 Nov 2006 08:10 PST
Question ID: 776760
In the world of needleworkers, there's been a recent flurry of web
sites and blogs discussing how to make a small pincushion that is
referred to as a 'biscornu.' Searches for biscornu under Google Search
or Google Images turn up hundreds of links.
Several bloggers claim that 'biscornu' is a French term for this type
of 8-sided cushion.  But my French dictionary reports that 'biscornu'
is an adjective that means 'quirky.'
I'm putting together a class for my needlework guild, and I'd like to
be accurate and informative.  Can the researcher confirm that biscornu
is appropriately used as a noun in this context, and how the term
developed?  Or, the researcher might answer the question by showing
that the term is incorrectly used or spelled.
Thank you.
Subject: Re: Use of the French word 'biscornu'
Answered By: guillermo-ga on 25 Oct 2006 22:44 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi hydrangea20-ga,

The word "biscornu" is, indeed, a regular French word and is correctly
spelled. However it is, officially, an adjective and not a noun.
According to the Dictionary of the French Academy
), the adjective "biscornu" originates in XVI century, composed by the
prefix bis- which gives idea of plural, and "cornu" = "with horns"
(literally it would be, "several horns") and means: having an
irregular shape, bizarre, unnecessarily complicated.

Familiarly -- not still officially -- the adjective has acquired a
noun-like use designating the eight-vertices tiny cushion you
described in your question. Although it is typically used as a
pincushion, please mind that the french word for pincushion is
"pique-aiguilles". It's easy to infer that the use has turned into a
noun-like one by dropping the originally associated real noun:
"(coussin or coussinet) biscornu", meaning "irregular (cushion or
little cushion)":

"coussinet biscornu"

"Coussin 'biscornu'" ( )

"...ce petit trucmuche c'est un biscornu, un petit coussin cousu d'une
certaine façon qui lui donne cet aspect "biscornu" d'où son nom..."
( ) "...this
little doodad is a biscornu, a little cushion sewn in a certain way
that gives it that irregular aspect, hence its name..."

I guess this answer satisfies your requirements, otherwise please let
me know by posting a request for clarification.

Search strategies:
biscornu (Google Image search)
biscornu couture
"coussin biscornu"


hydrangea20-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thank you.  Just what I needed.

Subject: Re: Use of the French word 'biscornu'
From: guillermo-ga on 27 Oct 2006 08:45 PDT
Thank you very much for the rating. I'm glad that the provided answer
met your needs.

Best regards,


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