Naturally the topic of conversation came to words, and I brought up one I had been using a lot lately: frak (the fictional version of “fuck” on Battlestar Galactica)... Matt said, oh that’s a “shibboleth.”I've not seen the show either, but at least now I know where "frak" comes from. You learn something every day.
A whateth? According to the OED:
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 (Judges xii. 4–6).Matt told me that he had first heard the word on The West Wing. Martin Sheen sums it up nicely: a password. A more recent sense in the OED defines shibboleth as:
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. The sect, in my case, is Battlestar enthusiasts.
Update - a big hat tip to Z. Constantine, who found this awesome list of shibboleths - hundreds and hundreds of them!