National Affairs: And/Or

Most intelligent laymen regard the jargon of lawyers as an obvious trade trick, a professional pig-Latin calculated to obscure otherwise simple matters and impress clients with the indispensability of their services. Fortunately, most of their pompous verbal mumbo-jumbo is harmless tautology. But at least one legal usage— "and/or"—is dangerous nonsense.

Many a suit at law has hinged on the interpretation of an "and/or." Usually the decision has gone against the drafter who slipped that literary whatnot into his contract. An early instance is a case decided in a British court on Feb. 8,...

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