June 27, 2005

Either/and, both/or

According to an article by Michelle Krebs on the new Infinitis in the 6/26/2005 NYT:

Infiniti also lets you choose your favorite satellite radio service, either XM and Sirius.

The meaning is clear enough, but I was taken aback by the phrasing "either XM and Sirius" instead of "either XM or Sirius".

However, phrases of the form "either X and Y" (meaning "either X or Y") are surprisingly common on the web:

The Grand Vitara is available in LX and EX trims, and in either 2WD and 4WD models.
Do you think either Arsenal and Liverpool will make it through to the last eight?
Are either Tia and Tamera Mowry married?
Easily build and maintain either online and offline HTML-based documents in several formats (XLR, XML, HTML).

You can also find plenty of examples of "both A or B":

Taking a vehicle out of the UK both temporarily or permanently.
These diamond blades are available both wet or dry and in different widths and thicknesses.
For both novices or advanced statisticians, an easy to use, searchable reference tool.
Sexual Assault Addressed Both On or Off Campus
Both Nurses or Doctors are available by appointment Monday to Friday.

We provide both private transfers or shared airport transfers.
How to Apply Windows Up-Dates For Both School or Home Use

And why not? After all, and is often used to connect terms referring to two alternatives, either of which may be chosen:

More automakers offering choice between XM and Sirius
The Neuronal Basis of the Behavioral Choice between Swimming and Shortening in the Leech.
I couldn't decide between University and Music College.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has been pushing the plan of having a United Nations supervised plebiscite for the Kashmir people to decide between India and Pakistan.
The two choices are literal and SOAP encoded.
Concepts 2 and 4 are the two alternatives that seem to best meet the overall interests of the City, County, and development.

And or often connects alternatives that are both available:

You can choose "Military" or "Normal" time format.
Calamari, shrimp & clams sautéed in your choice of alfredo or spicy marinara.
All Eggs served with your Choice of Homefries or Baked Beans and Toast or English Muffin.
Intel may prefer India or Malaysia to America for next major infrastructure investment

But "either XM and Sirius" still rates a WTF from me.

[P.S. I found it interesting that the pattern {"your choice of * or"} is so strongly associated with the menu register.]

Posted by Mark Liberman at June 27, 2005 10:28 AM