People of all sorts of genders are reporting great difficulty,
these days, in selecting the proper words to refer to those of the female
"Lady," "woman," and "girl" are all perfectly good words, but
misapplying them can earn one anything from the charge of vulgarity to a good
swift smack. We are messing here with matters of deference, condescension,
respect, bigotry, and two vague concepts, age and rank. It is troubling
enough to get straight who is really what. Those who deliberately misuse
the terms in a misbegotten attempt at flattery are asking for it.
A woman is any grown-up female person. A girl is the un-grown-up
version. If you call a wee thing with chubby cheeks and pink hair ribbons a
"woman," you will probably not get into trouble, and if you do, you will be
able to handle it because she will be under three feet tall. However, if you
call a grown-up by a child's name for the sake of implying that she has a
youthful body, you are also implying that she has a brain to match.