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SHIBBOLETH

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SHIBBOLETH

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Apr 13, 2007 11:55 pm

• shibboleth •

Pronunciation: shi-bê-leth • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A linguistic test or password, a catchword difficult to pronounce, designed to trap foreigners as nonnative speakers of a language. 2. A test of authenticity such as a question that someone from outside a culture or organization cannot answer, betraying them as an outsider. 3. A commonplace phrase or saying.

Notes: This word is so long and unEnglish that it has not developed a family and remains a lexical orphan. It is one of those words, however, with a double consonant and a single one easy to confuse: we must remember to double the B but not the L. Succeed in that and spelling today's Good Word is a snap.

In Play: The original shibboleth was always a word: "Mama, we have a new clubhouse and the shibboleth to get in is 'supercalifragilistic expialidocious'!" By the 20th century, however, it was any test of authenticity: "I escaped from the enemy but didn't know the shibboleth to cross the US lines—who had the most singles for the Chicago Cubs in 1943—so I went back, surrendered, and sat out the war in a POW camp."

Word History: Today's Good Word is Hebrew shibboleth "ear of corn" and "flooded stream", both meanings ultimately from a Semitic root meaning "to hang down, stretch, draw or move along". According to the Book of Judges 12:1-15, after the people of Gilead defeated the tribe of Ephraim, some Ephraimites crossed secretly into Gilead's territory in an attempt to escape retribution. In order to identify these disguised refugees, the Gileadites put each refugee to a simple test: pronounce the word shibboleth. Since the dialect of Hebrew spoken by the Ephraimites contained no [sh] sound, they pronounced the word with an initial S, betraying themselves as the enemy.
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Re: SHIBBOLETH

Postby Stargzer » Sat Apr 14, 2007 12:03 am

Dr. Goodword wrote:• shibboleth •

... By the 20th century, however, it was any test of authenticity: "I escaped from the enemy but didn't know the shibboleth to cross the US lines—who had the most singles for the Chicago Cubs in 1943—so I went back, surrendered, and sat out the war in a POW camp." ...


I was never much of a sports fan, so I wonder how I'd have fared in WWII. I think only my command of swearing would have saved me ...
Regards//Larry

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Postby scw1217 » Sat Apr 14, 2007 6:42 pm

I had to go read Judges 12:1-15 after this word. In all my Bible reading, I had missed this story. Interesting word today!
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Postby Perry » Sat Apr 14, 2007 11:01 pm

But not an ear of corn.

The flooded stream is correct, but in agriculture the "shibolet" is the top of cereal stalks that have the edible grains and seeds. Most of the cereals are mentioned under שבלת in the Even-Shushan dictionary, but not corn. Oatmeal, BTW, is known as שבלת שועל (shibolet shual).
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other uses

Postby engineer27 » Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:36 am

but in agriculture the "shibolet" is the top of cereal stalks that have the edible grains and seeds.


It is also used to refer to other agricultural products which have a spiked shape. I'm thinking of an herb or spice used in the incense mixture which is generally thought to be modern-day spikenard, or "shibolet naird." (Sorry, I'm not sure how to get hebrew font to display in the post.)
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Postby Perry » Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:48 am

I go to http://www.mikledet.com, type what I need, and then cut and paste into the message. It seems to work.
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Thanks

Postby engineer27 » Fri Apr 20, 2007 10:56 am

Perry,

That is SO cool. Thanks a bunch.... or should I say תודה רבה !
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