The Jersey use of 'stipulant'

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This article by F de L Bois was first published in the 1980 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Different meanings

There are French words in use in Jersey which have a meaning entirely different from that which they have in France. For instance, rente which to a Jerseyman means a charge on real property, means yearly income to a Frenchman. Likewise impots, the French word for taxation generally, has an application in Jersey restricted to customs and excise duties; thus when income tax was introduced in Jersey, it was called le taxe sur le revenu and not as in France, l'impot sur le revenu.

One can take it that there are good reasons to explain how the distinctions came about, a good instance, this time in relation to English, being the word 'mortgage', which is widely used instead of hypothec for the simple reason that most English-speaking people would not have the faintest idea of the meaning of the latter word.

The purpose of this article is to put on record the possible derivation of a French word of which all Jersey lawyers, and many others, know the meaning, but which, on considera¬tion, can only have come into use with that meaning by mistake.

When neither the Attorney-General nor the Solicitor-General is able to act, the Royal Court appoints someone to act in their place and the person so appointed is referred to as l'Avocat tel et tel stipulant l'office de l'Avocat General de la Reine.

Misused word

It occurred to Sir Martin Le Quesne that the word 'stipulant' was misused and, as he could find no dictionary definition for ‘stipulation' other than that of an essential term of a contract, he enquired whether anyone could explain the use of the word.

If one substitutes provision for stipulation one arrives at 'provisionally', for indeed the person acting is acting provisionally, but this is an unsatisfactory solution.

The answer is perhaps to be found in an Order in Council of 28 March 1771 which provides that where neither the Attorney-General nor the Solicitor-General is able to act, the Royal Court shall appoint un Stipulant l'Office de l'Avocat du Roi or un Avocat Delegue to Supply and Execute the Office.

The title of the appointee must have been given to the draftsman of the Order in Council by someone from Jersey, and it seems to me that a wrong word was given or a word given was misunderstood, and I find a clue in the word ‘supply'.

Bescherelle's Dictionary defines suppleant as celui qui remplace quelqu'un, qui le represente, qui fait ses fonctions à son defaut. But even if suppleant is the word which was intended to be used, history and the Order in Council says that it is stipulant and everyone who needs to know knows exactly what it means, so let this article be treated no more than an exercise in detection calling for no remedial action.

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