Although we must still wear thick sweatshirts or waterproof hooded jackets and anticipate the high chance of snow, the holiday season ended. Santa Claus has returned to the North Pole, leaving an exhaust trail of tinsel in his path. Mall activity will return to normal. Finding a parking space should not be difficult. No more will you have to wait for a car to pull out of a space, set your turn signal, and then another car steals your claimed space by veering right into it as you tried to ease your way in. And you will cry because that kind sales girl who gave you great customer service at the department store will lose her job sometime in January because it was only seasonal, despite the number of pins she received for assisting guests exceptionally.
It might be unpleasant, but let me take you back to the recent past during those weeks of the shopping season beginning with Black Friday. Remember squirming your way through dense crowds at the mall or in a department store, constantly bumping into others and apologizing, even though they didn’t reciprocate the sentiment, accusing you of taking merchandise that they had claimed first. Or better yet, remember that kind sales girl with all those customer service pins in the shoes department navigating you to a display table of nice leather boots, hearing the crunch of white wax paper on the floor under your feet from discarded shoe boxes that will never see their shoe owners again. You arrive at the display table of pretty boots. The sales sign reads “$70 and up.” See something odd?
The sign is a grammatical error. The sign should read “$70 or up.” How can one pair of shoes be two prices? Let’s say I am holding one pair of shoes and you ask how much? I don’t know the exact price of the pair, but I have the range in mind. That being said, I should say, “It is $70 or $80,” not “$70 and $80.” One thing cannot be the same price. In the case of this sign, $70 is the starting price for the group of shoes on the display table, but not all shoes are $70. All the other shoes are over $70. This causes customers confusion–which is totally understandable–because the wording is wrong. That is why the cute sales girl with all those customer service pins feels frustrated.
I, too, had trouble differentiating between the intricacies of “or” and “and,” until I took a lower-division Math course at my previous college. (Yes, I learned about them in a Math class, not an English class.) Imagine a circuit or better yet, a tuning fork with the two prongs facing to the right. This positioning of the tuning form illustrates “or” because the electric current can go through either prong. The electric current has a choice of where it can go through, just like there are many choices of price on a display table that has a sign that says “$70 or up.” The current can also go through both, just as there may be another pair of boots that cost $70.
Now flip the tuning fork so that the two prongs face the left. This positioning represents “and.” There are two currents but they can only go one way. There are no alternatives for the current. So think of this as a display table with two different pairs of boots, but both the same price.
The use of “or” and “and” in this case isn’t the only example of grammatically erroneous signage. Search Google Images and have fun laughing.