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This is part of the transcript of a trial running in the UK where a husband is accused of the attempted murder of his wife by tampering with her parachute :

I can't remember if I pulled the reserve or it deployed automatically. Either or, I could feel the reserve fly and again straightaway I felt something wasn't right and it was very twisted.

I can fully understand what she is saying, but is it grammatical to begin the second sentence with 'either or' where the options lie in the preceding sentences ?

  • Obviously he's guilty if he uses incorrect grammar. – Hot Licks Oct 26 '17 at 22:27
  • @HotLicks Errm - the one describing her parachute experience is the victim. – Nigel J Oct 26 '17 at 22:41
  • A style question. Either or sounds effective to me in this context, meaning "whichever way it happened", I could feel . . . etc. – Xanne Oct 27 '17 at 7:17
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    Oh dear, good question and no good answers ... – Araucaria Dec 4 '17 at 19:44
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Grammatical? Technically, no.

But this is not formal language. It’s unrehearsed spoken language. Spoken language is rarely free of error, unless recited from memory or a prepared text. On the contrary, it’s commonly full of errors: wrong words, wrong grammar, wrong ideas, run-ons, etc. It contains stops and fillers as the speaker considers what to say next. And when the speaker detects an error, you’ll get repairs and other interjections.

In this case, the speaker chose *either or instead of the idiomatic either way or in either case or regardless. The choice might have originated in the preceding sentence, which presented an “either or” scenario. This led the speaker’s language center down a garden path. With both either or and either way coming to mind, the “wrong” one was uttered.

It’s equally possible that the speaker habitually uses either or to mean either way. Most people have one or two idiosyncratic turns of speech. My daughter thought people said *EX-undheit when someone sneezed, so that’s what she said for years. I have a tendency to say “I left” instead of “I’m leaving”.

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