Daily Illuminator

October 23, 2006: More On Commas And Contracts

Remember the story of the Canadian contract whose meaning turned on a comma?

Here's a new twist, as reported in the Globe and Mail. Because Canada has two official languages, the contract was also translated into French, and the French copy was also signed. The French text, not surprisingly, has different punctuation, and the losing side in the original case is now arguing that the French version should control. Their spokesman called the ambiguity "one of the advantages of having two official languages."

(Editorial comment: This is why it's sheer madness to write laws, contracts, and so on in "multiple originals" in different languages. If one version is not defined as controlling, you've accomplished nothing but to create a bonanza for con men and lawyers.)
-- Steve Jackson

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