The book of Judges in the Bible has an interesting story of how the Gileadites were able to discern their friends from their enemies. The Gileadites asked anyone who denied being an Ephraimite to pronounce the word Shibboleth. The people of Gilead could pronounce the “sh” sound, but the people of Ephraim couldn’t; they could only pronounce the “s” sound. When they replied Sibboleth, the Gileadites recognized their enemies and killed them. Since then, a shibboleth is a word or phrase used to single out a person or group from the others around them.

It occurred to me, as I drove home today, that we use shibboleths in our everyday lives and we might not even notice it. I decided to make a quick list of words or phrases that can indicate the political leanings of the speakers. In each case, it is assumed that these words or phrases are said in earnest.

Liberal – military-industrial complex
– Bush lied, people died
– pro-choice
– “Bushies”
– wingnut
– neo-cons
– Arab insurgents
Conservative – pro-life
– moonbat
– Arab terrorists
Communist – “people’s republic”
– Arab freedom fighters

Since I am a conservative, I have a harder time recognizing my own accepted shibboleths, and it’s much easier to spot liberal ones. So I’m asking that you email me any conservative or other shibboleths you can spot, and the category you think they fall into.

Leave a Reply