It’s not hard to identify a thing if you almost know what it is — maybe you’ve got a field guide for birds or a repair manual for car parts you can cross reference it against. But when you truly have no clue what you’ve got, or when the options are all too confusing, you need human help. Fortunately, Reddit is on the case, with a variety of subs dedicated to identifying different categories of things. Let’s take a tour of some of the most fun ones.
First up, let’s visit the subreddits where you can go if you have no idea what your thing is. r/WhatIsThisThing and r/WhatIsThis feature everything from tools to toys to thrift store finds to odd aspects of house construction. The object above, found in a groundhog hole? It’s the all-seeing eye from the centre of a fortune telling game.
Need help identifying a weed in your yard, a potted plant you bought, or a strange flower you came across while hiking? r/WhatsThisPlant has you covered. The flower above, by the way, is an African daisy, Osteospermum ‘Whirligig’.
Saw a cool looking car and want to know more? r/WhatIsThisCar is the place to ask. The car above was identified as a Zimmer Golden Spirit, from a company that was founded in the 1970’s but made retro-styled designs.
When you find a crawly creature and aren’t sure if it’s a friend or foe, r/WhatsThisBug is the place to ask. It’s a welcoming community, and happy to identify spiders and crustaceans in addition to insects. (After all, you’re probably there because you don’t know what you have.) The thing above that Google thinks is a giant mosquito was identified by one of the humans on the subreddit as likely a “hanging thief” robber fly, which is harmless to humans and will catch and eat other insects.
If you like the Antiques Roadshow, you’ll love r/WhatsThisWorth, where people post family treasures and thrift store finds, eager to learn whether they’re junk or treasure. The phone above was labelled as 18K gold but the person who posted it thought it looked fake. Turns out it’s real gold plating, and possibly worth a couple hundred bucks.
Having trouble identifying a bird? While there are tons of great apps and books that can do the job if you know how to use them, sometimes you just want a birder’s keen eye. r/WhatsThisBird is here to help. The bird in the photo above is a cedar waxwing; as the redditor notes, “[y]ou can tell by the fancy eye makeup.”
Most snakes you’ll find in the wild aren’t venomous, but people often kill first and ask questions later. Snap a pic instead, and post it to r/WhatsThisSnake. There, you’ll find out whether the long boi you found is actually dangerous or not. The snake above is an Eastern Hognose, famous for spreading its back like a cobra when it wants to look threatening. A redditor calls it a “harmless and beloved drama snake.”
While thrift-store finds are a big part of this subreddit’s material, some of the most intriguing examples come from photos of people wearing unusual shoes in a movie or out on the street. Often somebody wants to know the particular words to google to get the right colorway of a sneaker or to find a style of shoe they’ve neer seen in person. A r/WhatsThisShoe detective identified the shoe above, for example, as a Hender Scheme Code Tip Smooth Brogue.
r/WhatsThisRock is a place where geologists, mineral collectors, and crystal devotees come together to discuss their favourite lumps of minerals. As with antiques, sometimes what you have is more special than you realise — and sometimes less so. The multicoloured rock above is a piece of quartz that has likely been “aura coated” in a thin layer of metal to make it look extra fancy.