What is the meaning of “and/or”?

January 8, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language, Legal, Literature

And/or is a device frequently found in legal and commercial documents and means “either both or only one” and indicates that the idea expressed is both distributive and inclusive. “John Brown and/or Paul Jones” signifies the same as “John Brown and Paul Jones or either of them”; that is, they are responsible individually as well as collectively. The conjunctions are so written to avoid using them side by side — and or — which would be awkward as well as confusing. The technical name of the short slanting stroke between and and or in the device is virgule, a French word derived from Latin virgula, diminutive of virga (“red”) and literally meaning “little rod.” It was the earliest form of the comma and was also used by early printers where a hyphen is now employed to indicate the division of a word at the end of a line. And/or is of questionable value even in legal and commercial documents and certainly has no proper place in ordinary writing. In 1938 Senator Carter Glass, of Virginia, made an effort to prevent the use of the clumsy and meaningless device in bills passed by Congress. “Whoever invented and/or,” declared the Senator, “should be in an institution for imbeciles.” In the same year Justice Chester A. Fowler of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin observed: “And/or is a befuddling, nameless thing, a Janus-faced verbal monstrosity, neither word nor phrase, the child of a brain of someone too lazy or too dull to know what he did mean, now commonly used by lawyers in drafting legal documents, through carelessness or ignorance or as a cunning device to conceal rather than express a meaning.”

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