Need less offensive way to say “he doesn’t know the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground.”

I’m writing something in a tone that is just a little too formal for “he doesn’t know the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground” or “he doesn’t know dipshit.” I need something that doesn’t include words like ass or shit, but that still gets the idea across and packs some punch. … Read more

Term used when answering a question with a lowered tone?

Is there a term/phrase that can be used to describe the answering of a question with such a tone that would indicate that the answer isn’t as all it seems? For example, if one person were to ask another person: ‘how are you today?’, to which they relied with: ‘I’m okay’ but their replied was … Read more

Does “nonstandard English” come across as judgmental in the following context?

I am looking for an alternative to the word nonstandard (if necessary). I used the word in my answer to a question at Academia SE. Let me first lay out the context. The question I was offering an answer to was I just had a lecture from someone who has been a senior scientist (and … Read more

Is “groundbreaking” a positive word, a negative word, or a neutral word?

I recently encountered the following sentence: The women’s movement of the 1970’s spawned the groundbreaking and influential works of socialists and historians. I was asked to analyze whether this sentence conveys a positive connotation or a neutral one. As far as I can understand, “influence” can be positive or negative. For example (positive): Many people … Read more

I need to know whether my sentence tone is correct for a Software Product

You recently made an offline purchase, and the payment methods associated with that subscription have been dissociated. So update your payment method in our Payment portal. This is the statement I am displaying to the user. I need to know whether my statement is clear and proper to my audience and at the same time, … Read more

Nonvulgar synonym for “smartass”

I just read a question here at ELU where a certain user, I’ll call him A, disagreed with the premise in the question. He wrote a comment to disagree with the premise, and wrote that actually, such-and-so grammar thing is not necessarily disallowed. OP requested an example that would be kosher. A gave a smartass … Read more

Need softer, less potentially offensive word for “malapropism”

Background: My spouse is German, and tends to misuse some words in English, and also tends to get some idioms a bit garbled. For example, to my spouse, “school” is synonymous with “grade school,” and does not include college (but the distortion of this English vocabulary item isn’t 100% consistent). So it’s hard to know … Read more

Is *holy*, used sarcastically, potentially offensive?

Do I need to replace holy with sacred in the following formal writing, because a Christian reader might take offense? The poor survey design and irresponsible use of the results left the parents and their guests with the impression that the district was looking for a way to back up its positions with some kind … Read more

Tone and formality of the word “loth”

On this Economist article, the journalist uses the word loth in the following sentence: (…) they are loth to do this. Checking the definition online I found: adj. unwilling; reluctant I get the meaning completely. But is this a formal, obscure word? Is it used orally (outside of academic or formal circles)? What is the … Read more