# A Georgian-era riddle

One of my favorite riddles, which I believe dates from the 18th century. Keep your mind out of the gutter...

"A strange thing hangs under a man's clothes. It is long and firm, pierced in front, and has a good fixed place. When a man lifts his garment, it is because he wishes to visit with the head of this dangling instrument the familiar hole which it, when of equal length, has often filled before."

• you can't see me, but I'm blushing. May 24, 2016 at 5:08
• If anyone thinks that he/she have seen this question somewhere then it is here May 24, 2016 at 5:14
• I know! – it's a submarine! (Sorry; wrong joke.) May 24, 2016 at 7:37
• Hm. Pity spoiler markup doesn't work in comments. We should put in a request for something like that... May 25, 2016 at 12:35

a key.

A strange thing hangs under a man's clothes.

It is an oddly shaped piece of metal, which is often hung with a chain around a man's belt loops. (In the 18th century, this must be the norm, I suppose)

It is long and firm, pierced in front, and has a good fixed place.

It usually has a hole at the head for the keychain to pass through, keeping it in a fixed place (somewhat). It is often a few inches long, made of strong metal.
(Thanks to @alexander for deciphering this next clue) In the olden days, keys used to have a piercing in the front, which would match a similarly shaped pin inside the lock.

When a man lifts his garment, it is because he wishes to visit with the head of this dangling instrument the familiar hole which it has, when of equal length, has often filled before.

A man reaches for his key when he wants to unlock the lock pertaining to that key. The hole in the lock should match the length and pattern of the key exactly to be able to unlock the lock.

• Right answer, though you misread a detail or two. I like this one partly because of the red herrings, and partly because it refers to one of my hobbies.. Had you encountered this before, or did you solve it from scratch? May 24, 2016 at 5:35
• If someone else can fill in the lacunae... May 24, 2016 at 5:40
• My first instinct was to go with sword (and sheath), but the pierced part threw me off. Then I started thinking along the lines of things we weild which are pierced, and scaling it down I arrived at key, where most of the clues fit really well. Almost like a... a key in a lock. May 24, 2016 at 5:46
• Not quite. That is usually considered the back, not the front. (I suppose I should have made you fix that before confirming... a bit late now.) So while you've guessed right, I'm holding out hope for a complete solution. May 24, 2016 at 5:55
• @keshlam Old keys had a single hole at the front, with a matching pin in the keyhole. May 24, 2016 at 9:09

This answer shamelessly builds on CodeNewbie's (although I did figure out the main part before I read his).  The item is

a key.

A strange thing hangs under a man's clothes.

It is an oddly shaped piece of metal, which is often hung with a chain around a man's belt loops.  (In the 18th century, this may have been the norm.)

It is long and firm, pierced in front, and has a good fixed place.

It is often a few inches long, made of strong metal.  The front part may have a hole in it, like this:
(Image source)
Or it may be hollow, like this:
(Image source)

When a man lifts his garment, it is because he wishes to visit with the head of this dangling instrument the familiar hole which it, when of equal length, has often filled before.

A man reaches for his key when he wants to unlock the lock pertaining to that key.  The hole in the lock should match the length and pattern of the key exactly to be able to unlock the lock.

• Almost exact. Note that the age of the riddle points to the details of this answer; only the head actually engages so "same length" is pure distraction (never changes...) Nicely done, folks! May 24, 2016 at 12:10

A strange thing hangs under a man's clothes.

Belt

It is long and firm, pierced in front, and has a good fixed place.

Yes, they are long and can be firm. Pierced in front because of the buckle and its place is on the waist.

When a man lifts his garment, it is because he wishes to visit with the head of this dangling instrument

He lifts his shirt to visit that head of the belt. He wishes to visit it because he wants to tighten the grip.

the familiar hole which it has, when of equal length, has often filled before.

The hole in which the whole belt is pushed inwards to tighten it.

• Good thought, but not quite what the riddle is looking for. You haven't satisfied a few of the keywords.... May 24, 2016 at 5:38
• Firm (belts are pretty floppy), because he wishes (why?), head (I've never heard a belt described as having a head, though I could be wrong)... maybe visit. May 24, 2016 at 5:44
• Ohkk I have made them a bit clear. May 24, 2016 at 5:51

a penis.

A strange thing hangs under a man's clothes.

Genitals are usually (especially in social situations) hidden from public view. Heck, that's what underwear is for!

It is long and firm, pierced in front,

Penises are of somewhat oblong/elongated shape. Their external end has an opening that leads to urethra.

and has a good fixed place.

This can mean that either the penis is usually firmly attached to the rest of the male's body, or that it has a designated place it's meant (evolved to) be placed into - the vagina.

When a man lifts his garment, it is because he wishes to visit with the head of this dangling instrument the familiar hole which it, when of equal length, has often filled before."

This refers to a sexual intercourse. Men usually remove their genital-covering underwear for one of three main purposes:
1. Washing
2. Urinating
3. Engaging in a sexual activity.
The "familiar hole" is a vagina. The latter part refers to the implication that the penis in question did engage in sexual intercourse before, and also refers to the physical incompatibility that can occur when the dimensions of the penis and vagina are off by a certain margin - coitus can be painful for woman when the penis is too long compared to the depth of the vagina.

• This does answer the riddle, as it is supposed to. The riddle is designed to be two toned.
– user19859
May 24, 2016 at 12:06
• Nope. I did say "keep your mind out of the gutter" and this is tagged "trick"; look past the obvious distractions. May 24, 2016 at 12:11