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I'm looking for a word that can substitute an object, whose name is unknown to the speaker.

I'm aware that there are words like "whatsamacallit", "thingamabob", etc., but they seem to be colloquial and I have never heard/seen any such word used in a formal setting. Is any of these common placeholder words appropriate in any situation?

For example, let's say I want to compliment a stranger, but I don't know the English word that represents the object I'm talking about: "You have a nice [placeholder]". What should the placeholder be?

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  • Pointing: "You have a nice one of those." (This assumes that you are not pointing at body parts.)
    – Greybeard
    Jul 19 at 23:22
  • 2
    Before widget meant something in software, it was a word for undefined things manufactured. "Let's say you make 1,000 widgets a day ..." Jul 19 at 23:50
  • 1
    Anything wrong with "thing"? Jul 20 at 1:52
  • Can "thing" always be used as a single word placeholder or can that be ambiguous sometimes and one should say "this thing" or something like that instead?
    – Villem
    Jul 20 at 5:01
  • @DJClayworth "thing" is sometimes used as a euphemism for penis.... Then again, almost any word can be used as a euphemism for penis -- guys are not very selective.
    – Barmar
    Jul 25 at 21:02

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Look for a more general term. Examples:

  • You have a nice accessory.

  • You have a nice garment.

  • You have a nice outfit.

  • You have a nice piece of jewelry.

But note that (at least in the US), it would be better to say, "What a nice _____" in place of "You have a nice _____."

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