Languages are full of fossils, that is things we say because they are commonly used but not because we reflect on the original meaning they used to have. Words like ado in “much ado about nothing / without further ado” are only used in these contexts and have lost their original meaning as single words.
But what about “like a girl”? I had two conversations a few days ago about using this term and other such has “to have balls”, which in Italian means “to be tough, brave”. Girls by definitions lack balls. Girls behave, play, cry, act like girls. This reminded me of a great TED talk by Tony Porter on what it really means to call someone “a girl”:
I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, “How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you you were playing like a girl?” Now I expected him to say something like, I’d be sad; I’d be mad; I’d be angry, or something like that. No, the boy said to me — the boy said to me, “It would destroy me.” And I said to myself, “God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?” (Tony Porter)
If you ever told someone he/she was behaving like a girl, like a cunt, like a pussy, or told them not to be a girl / a cunt / a pussy, or to man up, to show some balls, to stop being a little girl, maybe you should watch the whole video and think about what it means.
(subtitles are available in many other languages here)
I hate playing the language police, but these things do matter when you bring up a child. And even if you don;t have children of your own, don’t forget it takes a village to raise a child.
Need another word for it? What about “grown up”? Adulting is underrated.