A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Is there a name for a 13-sided shape?

September 2, 1988

Dear Cecil:

You may remember the infamous Susan B. Anthony dollar, a 13-sided coin that bombed miserably when it was offered as a substitute for the good old greenback. There are many mysteries surrounding this coin, not least of which is why they decided to introduce it in the first place. But my question is simpler: is there a name for a 13-sided object--that is, besides "pariah"?

Cecil replies:

Having spent a good five minutes scouring my Oxford English Dictionary, I fail to find one. But how's this for a free-lance effort: triskaidekagon. (Compare triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13.) You discover any other voids in the language, just let me know.

Vocabulary building made simple

Dear Cecil:

You really punched my button with the letter about the Susan B. Anthony dollar. One of the biggest canards ever perpetrated by the government was the notion that the coin was "13-sided." As you'll notice from the enclosed example, it is not. The reason the "Susie" was rejected by the American people is that it is, in fact, round with milled edges — just like a quarter, with which it is easily confused. If the coin actually had a distinctive shape and color, such as that of the Hong Kong two dollar piece or the Canadian "loony" dollar, you and I would happily plunking Susan B. Anthony dollars into vending machines today.

My theory is that the failure of the Susan B. Anthony dollar is attributable to the conspiracy by the Department of the Treasury. I believe the males in charge wished to ensure rejection of a coin with a feminist on it and designed the Susie accordingly. Little else could explain the incompetence with which this otherwise admirable project was executed. Any comments?

I'm not about to disagree with people who send me money, Steph. But judging solely from the results, it's difficult to distinguish malicious intent from mere stupidity. Considering that we're talking about the government here, I'd opt for the latter.  In any case the Susie B. tanked less because of its shape and color than because of failure to withdraw the paper dollar bill at the same time.  Canada did withdraw paper dollars when introducing the "loony," and the coin succeeded for lack of an alternative.

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