I have a physical thing of which I neither know what it is for, nor what it is called. Would it be adequate to post a picture of it on this site and ask what that is?

So it's not just a question like, "I have this thing and it is good for X, can you tell me what its name is?" But rather I don't even know what it does. And I don't know what the right place would be to post a photo and ask this question.

If this site is not a good place to ask, any idea where the question would be a better fit?

  • 3
    If you have a photo you can try the Google reverse image search Jan 27 '14 at 9:20
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    Since you haven't posted your question, I'm thinking you might have discovered its name. Have you? (Yes, I'm nosey and terribly curious) :^)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 30 '14 at 6:20

If you don't know what it is or what it's for, then your question is not “what is this thing called in English?” but “What is this thing?”. The former question is on-topic here, although you should strive to also describe the object in words: images are hard to search and cannot be read over low bandwidth or by blind people. The latter question is not a question about English, it's off-topic here.

Recognizing pictures is inherently problematic on Stack Exchange, because pictures can't be searched for easily. Furthermore, if you have no idea what the object is about, you can't target an audience of experts. You can try an image search on Google, but the technology is often not up to recognizing objects of a different color or seen under a different angle. You could try asking on a discussion group, for example there are questions like this on the Usenet group rec.puzzles.


You can post an image on ELU, I don't see why not. Yours wouldn't be the first question asking what an object is called in English using an image.

If the object is recognizable, people will either know instantly its name or think to themselves, "I want to knew what's it called". The "physical thing" needn't be obscure but if it is, it's more of a challenge to know its technical name (if there is one).

Examples What's the raised part of an arch called?

What's the low back support part of a chair called?

What to call a chandelier's crystal drop?

Name for an electrical element to use multiple appliances on the same plug

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    There's a major difference between your examples and what user196039 is proposing to ask. In all your examples, the object is clearly recognizable from the description, what the asker lacks is an adequate word. Here we're discussing an image such that the asker does not know what it represents. Jan 29 '14 at 16:39
  • @Gilles But if he posted the image we might know what the object was. How can he describe something without knowing what it is? Try describing a pear to someone who has never seen one. And you know what it is. You could spend probably 30 minutes describing it in minute detail. But if you were to draw its shape, wouldn't that person already have a better idea?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 29 '14 at 22:37

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