2394: Contiguous 41 States

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Contiguous 41 States
Linguists, settling some inscrutable grudge, have been steadily sneaking more backdated synonyms for 'sharing borders' into the dictionary. They've added 'contiguous,' 'coterminous,' 'conterminous,' and next year they're adding 'conterguous.'
Title text: Linguists, settling some inscrutable grudge, have been steadily sneaking more backdated synonyms for 'sharing borders' into the dictionary. They've added 'contiguous,' 'coterminous,' 'conterminous,' and next year they're adding 'conterguous.'


The states missing from the comic map.

The United States of America is composed of 50 states, 48 of which are contiguous – meaning they share common borders. Two states are separated from the other 48 states, Alaska and Hawaii. Alaska, purchased from Russia in 1867, is separated from the rest of the United States by the country of Canada (or at least appears to be as a result of the Mercator Projection). Hawaii, annexed in 1898, is a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. As these states are not contiguous to the rest of the 48 states, they may be omitted from maps of the United States. Typically, these 2 states are included in inset maps, separate sections usually placed at the bottom of the main map.

The United States also includes 5 permanently inhabited territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa), which are not contiguous with states. Puerto Rico may become a state. The District of Columbia is not (yet) a state, but is contiguous with the states.

The map in this comic is "Alaska and Hawaii's revenge", with seven additional states removed: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Most of these are accomplished by eliminating a column of states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. Oklahoma and Texas, which are directly south of these, are slid over to the west into the space freed up by deleting New Mexico. The other two deleted states are Pennsylvania and Delaware, with the states to their south and north slid/extended to fill the gap.

The map is also missing Isle Royale, Michigan, the third-largest island in the contiguous U.S. This seems to be a legitimate oversight, as the map includes numerous smaller islands in detail, including Michigan's Beaver Island and North Manitou Island. Even the non-contiguous Northwest Angle of Minnesota is depicted. (The Eastern Shore of Virginia, which is not connected to the rest of Virginia and only borders Maryland, is also not shown—presumably to make way for New Jersey replacing much of the Delmarva Peninsula).

Some states, while not removed, are significantly distorted. Iowa and Missouri lose their contours with the Missouri River, while Wyoming's eastern border is crooked. The eastern border of Maryland follows the Delaware river with New Jersey. The border between Oklahoma and Arkansas is moved west. Western New York is wider in the comic than it is in reality. Also, the location of the Niagara River, separating Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, is much less distinct than in reality.

The United States did have exactly 41 states for a few days in 1889, from the admission of Montana, the 41st state, on November 8, to the admission of Washington (the state, not DC), the 42nd state, on November 11. However, it was not the same 41 as shown here; for example, Pennsylvania and Delaware were two of the original 13 states (Delaware calls itself the first state, based on date of ratification of the Constitution) and Arizona and Oklahoma did not become states until the early 1900s.

The title text riffs on synonyms for "shared borders", which, according to Randall, linguists are inventing more of (while claiming they already existed) to make life more complicated for modern English users, for obscure reasons.

In fact, 'contiguous', 'coterminous', and 'conterminous' all date from early modern English, early-to-mid 17th century (just after the time of Shakespeare). 'Coterminous' and 'conterminous' are alternate spellings from the same Latin root ('cum' + 'terminus'), whereas 'contiguous' is from a different root (Latin 'contiguus'). Randall, facetiously, accuses linguists of having fabricated this history.

'Conterguous' is a neologism by Randall, though he blames it on linguists, consistent with his claim that they made up all the others. It is a portmanteau of 'CONTERminous' and 'contiGUOUS'. It is etymologically absurd (the prefix 'conter-' is meaningless). Its 'top-down' introduction into the language would simply be for the purpose of messing with people's minds, as Randall suggests. However, should the word catch on with English speakers, perhaps precisely because it is a joke, its 'bottom-up' entry into the language is certainly possible. One could then argue just how much Randall would have to answer for.

Three years later Randall made the opposite type of map, where he added 14 states and asks people to label all 64 (of 50) states in 2868: Label the States.


[Heading above the panel:]
The Contiguous 41 States
[A map of the United States, missing Delaware, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota, along with Alaska and Hawaii.]
[Caption below the panel:]
Tired of being left off maps of the US, Alaska and Hawaii begin producing maps with other states missing, too.

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Missing contiguous states: Delaware, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota 23:57, 4 December 2020 (UTC)

I knew something was off, but I couldn't pinpoint anything until reading the explanation. That's so weird. 07:54, 5 December 2020 (UTC)
I know. This is really well done! I actually came here expecting how the gag was somehow that it was just a regular map. 08:06, 6 December 2020 (UTC)
I'm from Denmark, but played a game when I was a kid where you should name the states just by seeing the contour and location. It was a very early computer with only limited graphics. Like really early! But I could manage to get all 50, and I'm proud that it has stuck, so I could actually find the 7 states my self. And now that I'm thus better at naming states than most Americans ;-) --Kynde (talk) 08:57, 6 December 2020 (UTC)
I did manage to find those 7, but I kept looking for the other two, because 41 is 50 minus 9. I double checked a few times before realizing that the other two were Alaska and Hawaii (*^^*) Erin Anne (talk) 14:47, 7 December 2020 (UTC)

Contiguous has more specific meaning that "share borders" - it means that you can travel (on land in the case of map) from any point to any point, and there would be no breaks and spaces in the territory. --JakubNarebski (talk) 09:56, 5 December 2020 (UTC)

This definition would seem to exclude any states that contain islands, because there would be some point in that state (namely, on the island) from which you could not travel on land to any point in another state. Though I can't prove it, a quick look at Wikipedia seems to confirm that every US state includes at least one island. So, if this is the definition of "contiguous," then NONE of the US states are contiguous with each other... which suggests (via Occam's Razor) that this can't possibly be the actual definition. 21:37, 2 March 2021 (UTC)

I know acting like descriptivism is the objectively correct approach to language is all the rage these days, but I don't think you can describe a linguistic event (a word catching on) as "descriptivist" or "prescriptivist", as the page proposed for "conterguous". That's like referring to an economic occurrence as "normative" or "positive". It's not either of those, it just happens. Descriptivism refers to a quality of linguistics itself, not to language; it means, well, describing language. It doesn't stand for organic growth (or the explicit endorsement thereof, which would actually be prescriptive, and there's nothing wrong with that). So I nixed the reference to it; I think the supplied top-down and bottom-up are apt enough to stand on their own for that tangent. 12:37, 5 December 2020 (UTC)

I wondered. "Prescriptive" and "descriptive" identify, I reckon, 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' processes, both are required to allow a language to grow while remaining comprehensible to all its speakers, and, at the time, the idea of linking an absurd "rage" with an absurd word seemed too good to pass on. Thanks for the correction. 16:18, 5 December 2020 (UTC)

This is like a puzzle with almost fitting pieces, so by carefully removing some states, it results in a fake border, as shown here: https://imgur.com/a/W8RMKMF . 15:49, 5 December 2020 (UTC)

I don't understand. There are borders throughout the map, and a lot of them appear to be messed up, not just that area of the map. Why does this particular vertical line in particular matter to you? Educate me! 23:27, 5 December 2020 (UTC)
This map https://imgur.com/a/rmXWwoF shows where Randall found two interior borders that looked very similar and collapsed them. This is how he was able to do this with only minimal distortion of the shape of states on these red and and blue borders. I think that might be what the previous poster was trying to say. ---Vroo (talk) 06:46, 25 December 2020 (UTC)

Living in Rhode Island, the smallest state, I thought it was humorous that RI was *not* omitted! Guess that would have been too easy... Davidhbrown (talk) 20:32, 5 December 2020 (UTC)

Also those small states around there would be the first place people would look. Only Delaware, maybe one of the lesser mentioned states, is missing. But PA missing is huge. --Kynde (talk) 08:57, 6 December 2020 (UTC)

Randall, you were searching for the word "contagious". 10:18, 6 December 2020 (UTC)

Someone should add a "citation needed" to the alaska bordering with canada sentence near the top of the explanation, with a link to comic 2082.\n I have no idea how to do this, so im putting it here. 14:04, 6 December 2020 (UTC)

Added --Erin Anne (talk) 15:01, 7 December 2020 (UTC)

The District of Columbia can not become a state without a Constitutional Amendment, which is highly unlikely to happen (since it would require ratification by 3/4 of the states). For this reason, we should remove the "yet" link, despite all of the talk about DC statehood in the news. See also Heritage Foundation: The Constitution and the District of Columbia. Shamino (talk) 14:30, 7 December 2020 (UTC)

The most recent bill worked around that by shrinking the capital down to a few critical buildings and turning the rest of the land into a new state. 01:11, 8 December 2020 (UTC)
Yes, the district does not have a specific size requirement, so the federal gov't portion around the mall could be preserved and the rest of the territory apply for admission.

WHAT ABOUT TERRITORIES KNOWN AS DOMINIONS????? Cwallenpoole (talk) 06:38, 8 December 2020 (UTC)

Created a map showing missing states https://imgur.com/a/dVMq8BR 19:17, 7 December 2020 (UTC)

I'd love to see a map of "ambiguous", "irriguous", and "exiguous" US states. ([Anonymous coward]), 3:58 1 October 2022 (UTC)

I live in the US and I usually think that I am good at geography, but I am extremely ashamed that I couldn’t find a single missing state until I checked on this website. ([me]), 11:35 2 November 2022 (ETC)