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shibboleth
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shibboleth


Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome "nerves" or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire.
E.M. Forster  --  A Room With A View
  a custom or belief that identifies one as a member of a group of people and which others believe to be foolish or outdated
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shibboleth shibboleths
Notes:
This older usage originated because of a Biblical story (Judges 12:5-6, KJV) in which the word (then with a different meaning) was selected as a password because the enemy could not pronounce the "sh" sound.
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Samples:
  • Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome "nerves" or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire.
    E.M. Forster  --  A Room With A View
  • But let flesh touch with flesh, and watch the fall of all the eggshell shibboleth of caste and color too.
    William Faulkner  --  Absalom, Absalom!
  • That was the shibboleth—the cry by which she sounded the closed depths of her love and called to the stricken life of a woman’s insatiate vanity.
    Zane Grey  --  The Call of the Canyon
  • As her brain clouded over, as the memory of the views grew dim and the words of the book died away, she returned to her old shibboleth of nerves.
    E.M. Forster  --  A Room With A View

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  • A formula, a shibboleth meaningless as a child’s game, performed by someone created by the situation whose need it answered: a crone mumbling in a dungeon lighted by a handful of burning hair, something in a tongue which not even the girls themselves understand anymore, maybe not even the crone herself, rooted in nothing of economics for her or for any possible progeny since the very fact that we acquiesced, suffered the farce, was her proof and assurance of that which the ceremony…
    William Faulkner  --  Absalom, Absalom!
  • He was gone; I did not even know that either since there is a metabolism of the spirit as well as of the entrails, in which the stored accumulations of longtime burn, generate, create and break some maidenhead of the ravening meat; ay, in a second’s time,—yes, lost all the shibboleth erupting of cannot, will not, never will in one red instant’s fierce obliteration.
    William Faulkner  --  Absalom, Absalom!
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Associated words [difficulty]:   shibboleth
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Most commonly used in these subjects:   Human Behavior, Logic & Reasoning, Religion - Christianity
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