Pronounce ‘Shibboleths’, and You’re In

Tomato, tomatoe. Potato, potatoe. Aluminum, aluminium. We all pronounce things differently, but did you know it’s actually part of a pretty ancient and complex sociological term? It’s called ‘shibboleth’. Basically, it’s the choice of phrasing, sometimes for a single word, that distinguishes between different social groups. Shibboleths have traditionally been used in societies and in-groups of shared interest as ‘code words’ or ‘passwords’ for identification, segregation, and protection, dating back to the days of the Hebrew Bible, where the term comes from. Inside jokes are perhaps the most common type of shibboleth. Professor Kate Burridge, Chair of Linguistics at the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics at Monash University explains. Bonus brownie points with Tuesday Drive’s team if you understand the shibb0leth in this article’s featured image.

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