Is it “the lesser of x or y” or “the lesser of x and y”?

Our executive VP and the VP of Sales couldn’t agree. They were trying to write a pricing letter where they wanted to specify two different payment options. So, should they say “The customer will pay the lesser of option A or option B,” or “The customer will pay the lesser of option A and option B”?

They brought the case to me for judgment.

Me: “I’m pretty sure it’s option A or option B.”

VP of Sales: “But that makes no sense: There are two options: A and B. You pick one on of them — so it’s A and B.”

Me: “But the logic is different here. You’re making a comparison. You don’t say: ‘Which do you like less: broccoli and spinach?’ It’s one or the other.”

Executive VP, with big grin: “Yay! I win!”

Just to be sure I checked afterwards with my cold-eyed editors. They all agreed with me, which was a huge relief. When I told the VP of Sales, he grumbled, “Maybe we need new editors.”

This site also agrees with me. Yay, I win!

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3 thoughts on “Is it “the lesser of x or y” or “the lesser of x and y”?

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