A divided federal appeals panel has decided name-calling, however inflammatory, is not necessarily libelous in the context of a labor strike, especially if the epithet fits.

An airline pilots’ union was entitled to call members who crossed picket lines “scabs,” the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday. The ruling included a passionate, occasionally sarcastic dissent from Judge Gerald B. Tjoflat, who traced use of the word “scab” to the 18th century.

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