While listening to an academic debate on Atheism the other day I came across one of the coolest words I’d seen in years: Shibboleth.
Shibboleth is the Hebrew word that literally means “ear of wheat”. In the Hebrew Bible, pronunciation of this word was used to distinguish members of a group whose dialect lacked a “sh” sound from members of a group whose dialect included such a sound. The consequences of getting it wrong were fatal: Today, “shibboleth” refers to words and phrases that can be used in a similar way—to distinguish members of a group from outsiders.
So basically, a Shibboleth is something that you prompt for, and based on the way the response is given you can tell whether the person is part of the secret club or not. The cool part about it is that, at least in the traditional sense, the person being tested was not physically able to say the password correctly.
Very cool stuff.