Hexahecta- whatever

Border deviation near Edith, CO. Image source: Google Maps/Ruland Kolen

Hexahectaenneacontakaiheptagon. Yep, it’s a word. I just stumbled across it yesterday, and I was stunned that I’d not seen it before.

You see, this tongue twister of a word is what you call a polygonal 697-sided figure. It’s also what you call the state of Colorado, which is not a rectangle at all but a hexahectaenneacontakaiheptagon. I’ve long known the state isn’t a nice 4-sided rectangle, having read that due to an early surveyor’s error, its western border with Utah actually has a jog in it. And most people can tell by looking at a map that the converging lines of longitude make the northern border a bit shorter than the southern border. Twenty-two miles shorter, to be precise.

Pity 19th Century surveyors who had only magnetic compasses and long chains to work with. It’s a wonder they did as well as they did trying to draw straight lines hundreds of miles long.

Unlike mountain elevations, which seem to get revised fairly often* with advances in technology, Congress and the western states decided to keep those early borders as they were originally drawn. So now I’m living in a hexahectaenneacontakaiheptagon.

And if you are wondering how to pronounce the word, or you want to hear it pronounced, there’s a place for that.

Or you can play this video:

*When I climbed Colorado’s Longs Peak in 1979, its official elevation was 14,255′. At some point since then, with improved geological technology, the official figure was changed to 14,259.’ Then recently on a local tv show, a reporter noted that due to rising sea levels, Longs had lost two feet and was now 14,257′, although I haven’t been able to find official confirmation of that.

Featured illustration by Esther Loopstra

10 thoughts on “Hexahecta- whatever

    1. There was a tv series called “How the States Got Their Shapes” or something like that. Very interesting. That may be where I first learned Colorado is not a rectangle.
      They wouldn’t dare drop a word like that on those spelling bee kids, would they??
      And don’t forget, although rivers make obvious borders, they have a nasty habit of changing course now and then.

      1. Oh, good point! I once visited a fascinating museum in Kansas City that held the contents of an old steamboat (the Arabia) that had hit a snag and sunk in the Missouri River in 1856. Because the river had changed course over time, the ship was finally found and excavated (in 1988) under 45 feet of soil, in a cornfield. It’s an amazing story and not-to-be-missed museum.

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