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Post Shibboleth and the Mother Lode; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 02/03/17 3:27 AM

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Shibboleth and the Mother Lode; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 02/03/17 3:27 am)

Gary Moore writes:

A word impossible to rhyme? Shibboleth. (Yea, the Mice of Time do nibbleth?)

Fascinated by WAIS's ability to compile an original shibboleth directory, plumbing niches of history for the times when tomato/tomahto turned fatal, I began wracking my brain for another example I'd heard, but found that memory had retained only the cryptic clues "bread and cheese" + "London." Try Googling that and quickly you're drowning in grilled cheese sandwich recipes, not shibboleths.

But the dark arts of keyword searching are deep, and eventually I dug into more than I'd bargained for, a place where the new WAIS compilation shares a spiritual home, and to some extent is reinventing the wheel.

But first, here's the WAIS compilation of shibboleths: Jan 18-27: Tor Guimaraes, David Duggan and Edward Jajko brought up the original example, from Judges in the Old Testament, when the unfortunate Ephraimites said "sibboleth" rather than "tomahto" (so to speak)--and were slain.

Then David Fleischer in Brazil added that country's example, from the Brazil-Uruguay war after independence in 1822, where pronouncing the letter "j" not as "jota" but "zota" could get you a fatal Ephraimite ticket.

And then, Eugenio Battaglia added the 1282 Sicilian revolt against the French, where the test word was "chickpeas" (ceci). If you said it French style: blam.

And then, Timothy Brown brought up Nazi-occupied Holland in World War II, where the test word was an unpronounceable place-name: "Scheveningen." Tim reminded JE that it was not as simple as thinking "shaving again." (This also reminds of colorful Battle of the Bulge stories about disguised German infiltrators getting tested with baseball lore.)

But finally, the home base I stumbled into--and a ton of shibboleths: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibboleth#Notable_shibboleths

I think that somewhere I did eventually find the "bread and cheese" case, but then I lost it again. Hope I'm not in the wrong dark alley some night, in the wrong rebellion.

JE comments: Unrhymable?  I can't pass up the challenge:

Speaking tongue-tiers like "shibboleth"
is no laughing matter to quibble with.
Ephraimites tried to
and thousands would die. Too
Bad they had no pens to scribble with!

I was on a roll until the last line. Some alternates:

(too) Bad there weren't iPhones to fiddle with!
(too) Bad they had no snacks to nibble with!
(too) Bad they had no balls to dribble with...or flavor their rottweilers' kibble with.

Nota bene:  The final variant works from the assumption that the Gileadites and Ephraimites could easily have worked out their differences on the basketball court, had Dr James Naismith been an Old Testament patriarch.  The dogs would have watched.

But Gary:  "blam" in the 13th century?  Wouldn't it have been "slice"?


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