Terror of singular 'they'

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Joining a crowd of other recent fraudsters, Paul Roberts and Deborah Briton returned from their Spanish vacation and subsequently turned in a completely fake claim against the Thomas Cook package-vacation company, alleging that their time in Spain had been ruined by stomach complaints for which the hotel and the company should be held liable. They sought more than $25,000 in damages for the fictional malady. The judge sentenced them to jail. And in this report of the case my colleague Bob Ladd noticed that Sam Brown, the prosecuting attorney, showed himself to be so terrified of blundering into a singular they that he would not even risk using they with plural reference, preferring to utter a totally ungrammatical sentence:

*Sam Brown, prosecuting, said: "Both defendants knew that in issuing this claim he or she would be lying in order to support it."

Beware of struggling to obey prescriptive injunctions that don't come naturally to you; they can warp your ability to use your native language sensibly.

And also beware of trying to cheat Spanish hoteliers with spurious claims of stomach trouble. They're onto the scam. One hotel in Mallorca (see this story) became suspicious about the way about 200 claims from among 9,000 guests were distributed among nationalities:

United Kingdom Germany Netherlands Other
200 0 0 0

Notice also this statistic concerning when the illness was first reported:

While staying at hotel After returning to UK
0 200

And these data about exactly who did the reporting and made the claim:

Reported by guest Professional claims company
0 200

Somewhat improbable statistically, the hotelier thought.

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