In a message dated 10/31/2001 4:13:55 PM Central Standard Time,
> I thought that shibboleth referred to a password or secret word originally
> and, in English, referred to when a proper noun (like an individual's name)
> had become merely a watchword or byword for a particular concept or idea,
> losing the remainder of its individual qualities along the way.
The origin of this use of the word 'shibboleth' can be found in the Old
Testament, Judges 12:4ff. in which Jephthah uses 'shibboleth' as a password
because the Gileadites could pronounce it but the Ephraimites, who were
infiltrating their lines, could not.
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