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Word of the Day - for Toastmasters everywhere
Thursday 25th July 2024
Archive | Previous word | Today's word |

shibboleth (noun) SHI-bo-leth

Identifying word or custom; a peculiarity of speech; a widely-used saying or belief (usually one that hinders dispensing with preconceptions); a slogan or catchword used by a group that is usually regarded as trivial or meaningless by non-members.

Apparently, to wear a hat in the cafeteria was a student shibboleth.

Irene Young, Enigma Variations: Love, War and Bletchley Park/i]. Amazon

The lawyers have a shibboleth for it: "hard cases make hard law".

Mr Blakeney, [i]Canadian Hansard, 20 August 1987. Canadian Hansard

Mr Parker points out that, after polishing off his own child, Jephthah went on to kill 42,000 Ephraimite refugees because their failure to pronounce "shibboleth" without lisping meant they came from the era's Axis of Evil.

Simon Hoggart, The Guardian, 14 October 2006. Guardian

Today in the United States, to win space for the exercise of one's religion it's easier to invoke the ideal of freedom of speech, a secular shibboleth, than to rely on constitutional protection of free exercise of religion.

John T. Noonan, The New York Times, 13 March 2005, New York Times
reviewing Robert F. Drinan's Can God and Caesar Coexist? Amazon

He goes on, "All the futile moralists who try to make life unbearable. Laugh at them. . . . Laugh at everything, all their sacred shibboleths. Flippancy brings out the acid in their damned sweetness and light."

John Lahr, The New Yorker, 6 May 2002, The New Yorker
reviewing and quoting from Noël Coward's Private Lives. Amazon

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