According to the internet, it was World Password Day on 3 May (although their definition of ‘World’ seems to mean ‘American’). So, this got me thinking – when did the word ‘password’ come in to being? And is its etymology as simple as it looks? Well, it turns out it is, so I decided to not make that the word of the week. Instead, I went with a word I found while doing my (very short) research on ‘password’.
A shibboleth is a word, phrase, custom, etc, that’s only known to a certain group of people, so you can use it to prove you’re a real member of that group. Think Michael Fassbender in ‘Inglourious Basterds’ when he blows his cover as a German after using the wrong hand gesture.
You’ve probably guessed from the spelling, but shibboleth is a Hebrew word. It comes from the story of the Gileadites in the Hebrew Bible. They used the word to identify Ephraimites who couldn’t pronounce the ‘sh’ sound – so if they tried to say ‘shibboleth’ it came out wrong. I’m not sure what happened to them once they were identified, but I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t good.