Small Nerf ball
reddit | Fombombo

20 Times The Internet Helped People Figure Out What The Heck A Thing Was

March 7, 2022

Look around your living space. You're familiar with every object in it, and what every object's purpose is.

But in the wider world, there are plenty of items that can be a tad confusing. If you encounter one, you can either choose to keep it a mystery, or you can head over to the r/whatisthisthing subreddit. Chances are pretty good you'll find your answer.

"These matchstick-sized metallic sticks with primary colours are confusing, what are they supposed to be used for?"

A vintage dice game
reddit | insecureaboutlife

This is a vintage dice game that was handed out on Swissair flights back in the day. Delving into the rules is a bit complicated, but the two variants of the game are called "Chicago" and "Hölzeln."

"A metallic pencil with hard wick and a battery inside. The words "Orlim, France" engraved on it."

An electric nail file
reddit | Tontoncarton

Most of us make do with normal nail files, but for those who need more electrification in their lives, there's this thing: an electric nail file.

"This sweater has a singular button hole in its left shoulder pad. What is it for?"

A badge holder on a shirt
reddit | vangerposts

This is present on many types of uniforms. This is designed to have an epaulette or badge threaded through it.

"What is this and what is it supposed to hold? Found multiple of them at Goodwill for very cheap. Has holes on the back to be hung up. The shelf holes are different sizes."

A wooden hanging object for displaying balls
reddit | shadeyard

One item in this photo is a cat, but what's with the other thing? It's actually an all-purpose, uh, sports ball holder. It can fit a basketball, football and two baseballs.

"What is this substance on top of architectural shingles?"

Roofing tar
reddit | Steeps5

Here's a handyman's special: something used not for its intended task, but for something entirely different. This is just a mess of roofing tar that was used to glue down shingles, or possibly patch a hole.

"4-6 inch black plastic disc in the center of every parking bay."

A parking sensor
reddit | No-Blackberry-3945

If you've ever wondered how some parking garages know which spaces are occupied and which are vacant, this is how. It's a parking sensor.

"JEEP branded large tire-textured object. 9 inches long, 3 inch diameter."

A durable dog toy
reddit | vulawriter

We have no idea what's up with the Jeep branding, but this is part of a dog toy. It's made of durable rubber to withstand biting.

"Found this buried in some pretty old dirt. Made of brass and was found intact with dirt filling the inside. Seems too small to actually have been any kind of container."

Container for powdered tobacco snuff
reddit | BobDucca

It looks quite a bit like a flask, but it's more likely that this is an old-school container for powdered tobacco snuff.

"What is this weird spiral of what looks like blonde hair? Found on a pineapple that came from Costa Rica."

A seed from a Parsonsia heterophylla
reddit | Quinn_all_man

We can't be certain, as this might just be hair from a Barbie doll. But it seems likely that this is a seed from a Parsonsia heterophylla, which tend to look like hair.

"What is this half-circle inside the drawer of a credenza?"

A credenza with a small bowl inside
reddit | whitebeaks

This is simply a general purpose little bowl. There's nothing specific that's designed to go in here. It's basically a catch-all for bobby pins, hair ties, rings, or whatever.

"For context, the person who gifted this thing doesn’t even know what it is. It appears to have a suction cup and two adjusting arms that may hold something."

A device for drying and filling bags
reddit | pepperedowl

Some of these objects are so specialized that it's miraculous anyone at all recognizes them. This is specifically for drying and filling small reusable bags such as Ziploc bags.

"What are these blue balls? They look like steel wool covered in a blue powder and are about the size of a skateboard wheel. I found them on top of a dumpster at a campsite."

Scouring pads
reddit | mossimoto11

If you're serious about cleaning pots and pans, you've probably used something similar to these before. They're just scouring pads, or SOS pads, for cleaning tough-to-clean kitchen stuff.

"Extendable wooden handle with metal attachments that screw in. It’s old but there are no markings. Internet search hasn’t returned any hits."

An incomplete gun cleaning kit
reddit | Defiantspud

Some objects are tough to figure out simply because they're incomplete. This is one such example. It's part of a gun cleaning kit, but much of it is missing.

"Metal triangle shaped hand tool with an offset wooden handle. Five shallow circle indents on the surface. Similar to a trowel. Found in the kitchen section of a thrift store, but could have been misplaced."

A Masonic shot glass holder
reddit | peachdoughnut

This weird-looking device is a Masonic shot glass holder. It's for, well, holding shot glasses during Masonic meetings.

"Weird looking drill bit, anyone know its purpose?"

A unique drill bit
reddit | themorah

This one's cool, as it turns a drill into a new type of tool. It's designed for cutting or sawing, and allows an electric drill to function similarly to a jigsaw.

"Clay-like substance packed in foil found washed up on the beach."

A clump of sodium metabisulfite
reddit | Astroid

This is an interesting one, as it actually wound up getting the attention of the local police department's bomb squad. Turns out it's sodium metabisulfite, which is used as a preservative in emergency rations.

"What is this instrument/tool this woman is displaying?"

An old-fashioned bed warmer
reddit | professor_doom

This old-timey device was a bed warmer. How did it work? Apparently you rested it in hot coals or a fire, then put it under the blankets. After taking it out, the bed was warm (and maybe a bit burnt).

"Spiky plastic thing. Banana for scale."

Holder for baby bottles
reddit | unkiejubjub

Parents might recognize this one right off the bat, as it's a pretty standard piece of equipment for new parents. It's a bottle holder for baby bottles, and helps them drain after being washed.

"Cast iron shaft in the marsh on my property."

Worm and driveshaft from a Ford vehicle
reddit | Wagner228

Don't ask me what these words mean, but here it is: this is the worm and driveshaft from a model AA Ford rear end. Here's a better look.

"Small dimpled rubber ball that was fired at a cyclist, drive-by style. Very squishy and about the size of a paintball."

Small Nerf ball
reddit | Fombombo

This person was ambushed, but by what? Turns out this is just a soft little foam-rubber ball that goes with a Nerf gun.

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