Tuesday, 10 April 2018


Here's a straightforward question. What do you understand by the word 'shibboleth'?

I ask because, in the reporting of the Barry Gardiner story, two different versions have been given as the standard, contemporary definition, and one of them surprises me. Not that it makes a huge amount of difference to the story, I'm just interested.


Jo Bell said...

I was surprised too. I suspect that like me, you take it to mean 'a word which determines which of two tribes you belong to.' As I understood it, 'shibboleth' was used as a password by the Jews because the Philistines couldn't pronounce it. I hadn't heard the other meaning of it at all, until today.

Matt Merritt said...

Yes, that's what I thought, like in the Michael Donaghy poem, and various World War Two incidents. I was baffled that some news sources are saying that's the secondary meaning.