Question for ShibbOleth

Hey, Shib…

Out of curiosity, is your nick a biblical reference? The only incidence I know of is the literal translation of “ear of grain,” or the Israelites using it as a password…

Just curious…

The word shibboleth did mean ear of grain, and it was used as a password by the ancient Israelis. Their enemies, who wanted to invade their camp, spoke a dialect that didn’t include the /sh/ phoneme. They pronounced the word sibboleth', as opposed to the Israelis, who pronounced it with the modern phonetic values (or something close). Those who couldn't say the correct name when the guard asked What am I holding up?’ were, presumably, killed.

It’s since become a generic word meaning `secret knowledge used as a cultural in’, like a lingo or an in-joke.

I have absolutely no ability to comment except as to what I discover on Google. It would seem that Clarke’s commentaries suggests that the difference in the pronounciation to an Arab or Hebrew in the old days was very clear, much like the apocryphal? WWII stories about passwords which the Japanese/Germans couldn’t pronounce.

Can Zev or any other expert reply?

Judges 12:5-6:

However, it wasn’t a case of “Israelis” versus anybody, or a difference between Hebrews and Arabs; Gilead and Ephraim were two of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. (It’s as if a group of speakers of American English were at war with a bunch of Cockneys, and killed anyone who didn’t pronounce their “aitches” properly.) The slaughter of the Ephraimites took place during a civil or inter-tribal war; the Gileadites fought a war against the non-Israelite people known as the Ammonites (Judges 10:6-11:40), then the Gileadites fought with the Ephraimites over the latter tribe’s lack of support during the war against the Ammonites (Judges 12:1-7).

From this story the word shibboleth has gotten its modern meaning.

(The whole episode seems vaguely Pythonesque–a cross between “Bawabbas!” and “the Judean People’s Liberation Front” “No! the People’s Liberation Front of Judea”–although it was, according to the Bible’s account, a bloody tale from a dark and bloody time in the history of the Israelite peoples.)

So, what’s your favourite color, MEBuckner?

Blue! I mean yellow!

Wow, a GQ thread about my username. How flattering! I’m glad I actually popped in here in time to see it, as I’ve not been in GQ as much as I’d like lately. FWIW, the reason I chose this word as my username was that back when I was a newbie, I wasn’t sure whether the folks here would accept me or not. Hence the idea of an obscure sort of password: would I speak in a way in which I would be accepted? Of course I didn’t expect to be put to death… aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhh!!*

*Sorry, no idea how to spell that in Aramaic