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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

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