In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, one Peter Palmer, of Lincoln's Inn, brought an action against a barrister of the name of Boyer, for having, with the intention to injure him in his name and practice, said, 'Peter Palmer is a paltry lawyer, and hath as much law as a jackanapes.' It was moved in arrest, that the words would not maintain an action, because they were not slanderous. Had Mr. Boyer said, 'Mr. Palmer had no more law than a jackanapes,' it had been actionable, for then he had lessened the opinion of his learning; but the words were, 'he hath as much law as a jackanapes,' which was no impeachment of his learning, for every man that hath more law than a jackanapes, hath as much. Sed non, allocatur, for the comparison is to be taken in the worse sense.

Judge Berkeley says it has been adjudged, where a person said of a lawyer, 'that he had as much law as a monkey,' that the words were not actionable, because he had as much law, and more also; but if he had said 'he hath no more law than a monkey,' these words would have been actionable.

From The Percy Anecdotes, published 1823
http://mspong.org/percy/index.htm

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