shibboleth [ˈʃɪbəlɪθ] n.
1.) The Hebrew word used by Jephthah as a test-word by which to distinguish the fleeing Ephraimites (who could not pronounce the sh) from his own men the Gileadites.
2.) transf. A word or sound which a person is unable to pronounce correctly; a word used as a test for detecting foreigners, or persons from another district, by their pronunciation. A peculiarity of pronunciation or accent indicative of a person's origin. loosely. A custom, habit, mode of dress, or the like, which distinguishes a particular class or set of persons.
3.) fig. A catchword or formula adopted by a party or sect, by which their adherents or followers may be discerned, or those not their followers may be excluded. Hence, a moral formula held tenaciously and unreflectingly, esp. a prohibitive one; a taboo. The mode of speech distinctive of a profession, class, etc. (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).
Etymology: adoption of Hebrew shiˈbbōleth; in the Vulgate transliterated sciboleth. The word occurs with the senses "ear of corn" and "stream in flood"; modern commentators prefer the latter, on the ground that on this view the selection of the word is naturally accounted for, as the slaughter took place "at the fords of Jordan".
"And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay: Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousands" (Judges, Unknown Author, ~600 B.C.).
There's some modern art for you, Ala mode 7. I know you think I'm unaware of anything after the Franco-Prussian War, but I actually saw this exhibit at the Tate Modern, so there. Okay, it's time to announce the winner of this week's contest. It's...D4! He wrote:
And the Lacrimae Rerum award goes to... Herbert Hemp!" Yelped the gaucherie MC as he pulled a baroque simulacrum of some demon, the "award". Herbert's face paled, overwhelmed with lassitude and shame, finally working his way out of his seat to slump through the crowd as they pointed, laughed and booed. That's when he fell off the bed and saw he had overslept.Well-played, sir. The only flaw is that you used "gaucherie" as an adjective instead of a noun (it should have been "gauche"). So, that means D4 overtakes Intraman as the outright leader and gets one step closer to a free book (my O.E.D. is off-limits, though!). Next week's words are plus ca change, paean, hirsute, bellwether, ebullition, celerity, and sinous. Good luck and thanks for reading!