In the Bible, Judges Ch.12, v5-6, shibboleth was a (presumably) random word used by the Gileadites simply to detect if the people trying to pass them were their enemies, the Ephraimites. The Ephraimites couldn't pronounce the 'sh...' sound; they'd say 'sibboleth'. And thus the Gileadites would know their enemies and put them to the sword.
The word of God says that forty-two thousand Ephraimites were smote. Which even by current Middle Eastern standards is quite a tally. No wonder Ephraimia isn't a member of the the UN.
A shibboleth in modern parlance is a word used to detect if you are one of us or one of them. In short, a password.
I wrote yesterday about NarrowBoat magazine installing a shibboleth on its website, where it demands that you type in 'the last word on page 41'. In a comment on GrannyB someone posted the word itself (which, ironically, didn't contain the 'sh' sound). Almost immediately, the webmaster change the page to '17'. (I tried 'arse' and no, it's not that).
Is this daft of them? Well, considering that it was only a holding shibboleth until the webmasters got to work installing subscriber passwords, yes I think it was. It's early days for NarrowBoat magazine, very much a 'beta' version, and I would have thought that they'd be amused and gratified by the attention, and would consider it good advertising for when they have a site worth returning to.
But then again, perhaps they actually have a sense of humour and are simply joining in the game! If you have a copy of the magazine, and/or you have a blog, would you like to play the game too? That is, pounce with the relevant word in a blog post or a comment as soon as WW changes the page!
Plea to WW: play your cards right and you could attract a lot more attention to NarrowBoat magazine.