Shibboleth

river, or an ear of corn. The tribes living on the east of
Jordan, separated from their brethren on the west by the deep
ravines and the rapid river, gradually came to adopt peculiar
customs, and from mixing largely with the Moabites, Ishmaelites,
and Ammonites to pronounce certain letters in such a manner as
to distinguish them from the other tribes. Thus when the
Ephraimites from the west invaded Gilead, and were defeated by
the Gileadites under the leadership of Jephthah, and tried to
escape by the "passages of the Jordan," the Gileadites seized
the fords and would allow none to pass who could not pronounce
"shibboleth" with a strong aspirate. This the fugitives were
unable to do. They said "sibboleth," as the word was pronounced
by the tribes on the west, and thus they were detected (Judg.
12:1-6). Forty-two thousand were thus detected, and

"Without reprieve, adjudged to death,
For want of well-pronouncing shibboleth."