Word Smith: Shibboleth




  • 1. custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important:”the majority, under the influence of vague nineteenth-century shibboleths, understood him to be associating himself with the doctrine that every nation has a right to be a sovereign state”

Reading a book about swifts, called Vesper Flights, by Helen Macdonald in the essay entitled Swan Upping … I came across this passage on page 107 which piqued my interest: “The quaintness of these conjured shibboleths was no accident: Brexit rhetoric (bans on English breakfasts for truck drivers, the Queen’s favorite dog breed, barrister’s wigs) was all about the battle to save British values and an English way of life beleaguered by waves of immigration and European interference. It had weaponized history and tradition.”

What a great SAT word to add to my vocabulary.