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IN MITIORI SENSU, construction. Formerly in actions of slander it was a rule
to take the expression used in mitiori sensu, in the mildest acceptation; and ingenuity was, upon these occasions, continually exercised to devise or discover a meaning which by some remote possibility the speaker might have intended; and some ludicrous examples of this ingenuity may be found. To say of a man who was making his livelihood by buying and selling merchandise, he is a base, broken rascal, he has broken twice, and I'll make him break a third time, was gravely asserted not to be actionable -- "ne poet dar porter action, car poet estre intend de burstness de belly," Latch, 114. And to call a man a thief was declared to be no slander for this reason, "perhaps the speaker might mean he had stolen a lady's heart." 2. The rule now is to construe words agreeably to the meaning usually attached to them. 1 Nott & McCord, 217; 2 Nott & McCord, 511; 8 Mass. R. 248; 1 Wash. R. 152; Kirby, R. 12; 7 Serg. & Rawle, 451; 2 Binn. 34; 3 Binn. 515.