Is “girl” a valid synonym for “young woman”?

This question emerged out of a discussion on Mastodon about Ivanka Trump being called a girl, where it was claimed that “girl’ is synonymous with ‘young woman’ in English”. Is this true? Is it sexism if adult women are called “girls”? Answer First, a necessary disclaimer: context and audience matter a lot in what is … Read more

Do I have to use “I” or “we” when orally presenting my scientific thesis written by a single author?

I know that in a scientific paper or thesis made by a single author, it is common to use we. (This is also recommended at our university.) But what about when you alone are presenting a thesis work orally? At first glance, it is quite odd to use we when the work is written only … Read more

How do you differentiate between “in order to”, “so as to”, “so that” and “to”?

When we use the phrases so as to, in order to, and so that, we simply mean with the aim or purpose of doing something. The first two phrases are always followed by an infinitive to. Will I not be altering the meaning of the sentence, if I put both phrases in order to/so as … Read more

A fancier way of saying, “I’m not a fan of…”

I am looking for synonyms–the more ‘fanciful’ the better–of “not a fan” as in I’m not a fan of his, but give the man a break! The expression, “I’m not a fan of his/her” or “I’m no fan of his/hers”, is often used when someone means they dislike a particular person, their views, work or … Read more

Formal writing: “…for my colleagues and {I/me/myself}.”?

I’m currently using Cambridge English Advanced 1. It’s a book that contains past examination papers, and includes numerous samples of authentic writing. This material helps, candidates and teachers, understand what the examiners are ‘testing’ and how these papers are marked. The assessment covers four categories: content, communicative achievement, organisation and language. Each category is awarded … Read more

Can I use the phrase ‘nigh-on-impossible’ in a report?

I’m currently writing an academic report and I began to write out the phrase ‘nigh-on-impossible’ without a second thought. It then occurred to me that this phrase may actually be slang. I did a quick Google search and someone on Yahoo answers stated: Nigh is the Old English word for “near”. The phrase means “nearly … Read more

Single noun/phrase to denote transfer across levels of formality of language

Question: What is the name of the quality denoting the formality/colloquialism of and/or amount of jargon in language? Context: I am writing a review for a paper in which authors developed a model that, taking informal descriptions as input, outputs formal names of the entities described. Examples: He said he was feeling tired and then… … Read more

What is the difference between “The army didn’t have any” and “didn’t have no” in “It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier”?

In his intro to the song "It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier," Tom Lehrer says: The army didn’t have any, excuse me, didn’t have no official song. And after that the audience laughs. Why is it funny? Does the first statement neutrally states that there is "not any official song" and second … Read more

“Heaps” or “heap” as an adverb

According to the Oxford dictionary online (ODO), “heaps” is an adverb meaning a great deal. But in Gone with the Wind, there is this sentence, containing “heap,” most likely meaning the same thing as “heaps”: I’d heap rather go to a war than go to Europe. Is “heaps” the same as “heap,” as is most … Read more