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I watched somebody open a gift box with a custom made, massive pin badge, the sort that you would attach to clothing with a design on the front. They even said it looked like the sort of thing that you'd put on a desk, not wear, despite having the right parts to attach to clothing so it can be worn.

It made me wonder if there is an adjective for this sort of thing?

I know the word skeuomorph for when the form of an item is imitated even when not needed for it's function (like a light bulb that looks like a candle), but this is something that was the function but is not intended to be used. Like candles not intended to be lit (but could be), or a handbag that's not designed to hold items (impractically small volume), it's just an accessory. Maybe even a car that works but is not intended to be driven, just looked at.

I'm not inclined towards the words display as the pin in my first example could be displayed while attached. The handbag might be held, not just displayed in a room. I'd expect a display candle to not be lightable.

Is there a word for these sort of items?

As for example sentences, I have made these ones up to cover my purpose:

Please don't light the candle, it's a <word> candle.

I can't take you to the harbour in the car, it's a <word> car

I didn't wear the pin ze sent me; however I put it on my desk as a <word> pin

Sorry bro, can't put that in my <word> handbag. It's got a zip but there's no space inside.

The queen never wore this into battle, it was a <word> set of armour.

After writing those, I'd be tempted to say 'show' but neither Merriam-Webster nor wiktionary list it as an adjective. I'm sort of taking it from show car but that seems to have a lot of other connotations that don't map over to the other examples.

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    We often say "The X is purely ornamental" when it's not intended (by the end non-user) to fulfil any practical purpose. But the pin you mention is obviously used inventively. Something used for something other than its intended purpose covers repurposing. Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 12:22
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    "Show" can be used as an adjective. See here: qld.equestrian.org.au/show-horse/node/137. The word "demo" (short for demonstrator). Also, "mock-up" and "prototype." Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 12:28
  • @EdwinAshworth the impression that I got was that although it could be used that way, the pin was meant more for display purposes. Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 12:28
  • @rhetorician but a show horse can still be practically ridden. Demo, mock-up and prototype all imply incompleteness. In fact it looks like that means a horse intended to be taken to a horse show. That doesn't fit any of my examples. Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 12:30
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    You may need different words. A very large pin may be wearable but impractical. A candle may be decorative only because it is a fake/display candle. I can't take you on a long trip in that car because it's unreliable .
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 14:03

3 Answers 3

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A number of adjectives could be used, depending on context, to mean 'looks like but doesn't actually work':

For example,

Please don't light the candle, it's only a decorative candle.

This implies that it is a candle made of wax, and if desperate you could use it as such, but it is intended just to be seen and not used up as a light. A fake candle would be a candle made of plastic and could never be used.

The queen never wore this into battle - it was an ornamental set of armor.

'Fake' might also be used here though that is a bit tendentious, implying subterfuge rather than simple practicalities. If subterfuge is intended, then by all means use it.

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If the object can technically be used for its intended purpose, but has a drawback that limits or prevents its use, there are many possible adjectives, depending on the problem, such as:

impractical / unpractical / unworkable

unreliable / undependable

unwieldy / cumbersome / ungainly / oversized

uneconomic

loud / garish / ostentatious / unfashionable / ongepotchket

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  • These all describe the drawback but not the item... "Please don't light the candle, it's an unreliable candle." Says nothing about why it's unreliable - it could merely be a cheap knock-off not an item only intended for it's form not function Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 17:37
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There is the noun "imitation" that is often used attributively. From Google Books:

It’s Been an Adventure - Page 461 R. George Rea · 2017 "Turns out it was some jerk with an imitation gun."

Labeling of Meat Food Products to Reflect the Inclusion of ... Page 68 United States. Congress. House. 1988 ... tomato sauce , cheese , and meat ; we strongly believe that if more than 50 percent of a characterizing ingredient , real cheese , is replaced with an imitation than the product ceases to be pizza and becomes an imitation pizza .

Pollen and Pollination - Page 100 Amots Dafni, ‎Michael Hesse, ‎Ettore Pacini · 2012 Iris germanica (Iridaceae) flower with an imitation androecium mimicking stamina with white filaments and yellow thickened anthers

Or

OED

Pretend B. adj.

Designating something that is not really what it is represented as being; imaginary, imitative, make-believe, pretended. Chiefly attributive.

1950 Chron.-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) 2 Aug. 24/4 This is just a pretend gun.

1962 J. L. Austin's Sense & Sensibilia vii. 72 The water in toy beer-bottles is not toy beer, but pretend beer.

1996 Sunday Tel. 13 Oct. i. 39/6 The connection between pretend violence in films and on television and real killing on our streets.

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  • I would not expect imitation/pretend candles to be lightable, for example. Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 17:35

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