I searched the term on the site, and I noticed that while it could mean "what's that", it also had some negative meanings. What would be a better way to ask "What's that?"

  • Did you do any research outside jlse? – ajsmart Sep 30 '19 at 19:17
  • yes, as a matter of fact, I searched jisho and eow. The rudeness was mentioned on a site comment and with some previous chat partners. – TutorJack-YouTube Sep 30 '19 at 19:29
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    Next time, you should indicate that research as well. – ajsmart Sep 30 '19 at 21:31
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    thanks for the feedback – TutorJack-YouTube Sep 30 '19 at 21:44

何それ? is not necessarily rude, but it is certainly informal. As such, it should probably only be used with friends or family or in an informal environment. Using it outside those boundaries might risk it sounding somewhat brusque or perhaps even rude.

A standard polite alternative is:

それは何ですか。 What is that?

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