List of shibboleths
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Below are listed various examples of words and phrases that have been identified as shibboleths, a word or custom whose variations in pronunciation or style can be used to differentiate members of ingroups from those of outgroups.
- 1 Shibboleths used in war and persecution
- 2 English shibboleths for native speakers or local natives
- 3 See also
- 4 References
Shibboleths used in war and persecution
- Schild en vriend: On 18 May 1302, the people of Bruges killed the French occupiers of the city during a nocturnal surprise attack. According to a famous legend, they stormed into the houses where they knew the tenants were forced to board and lodge French troops serving as city guards, roused every male person from his bed and forced them to repeat the challenge schild en vriend (shield and friend). The Flemings pronounced schild with a separate "s" /s/ and "ch" /x/". Flemings would pronounce vriend with a voiced v whereas French would render those as a voiceless f.
Every Frenchman who failed the test was stabbed on the spot, still in his nightgown. Because the signal for the uprising was the matins bells of the city's churches and monasteries, this became known as the Bruges Matins or Brugse Metten. Like the name of the massacre, the story may have been influenced by the Sicilian uprising mentioned below.
- The problem with this legend is that in Medieval manuscripts of that time, a shield is referred to as "skilde" as in Norse and Norse-influenced English words. Therefore, it is sometimes said that the words must have been "'s gilden vriend" meaning "friend of the guilds." The combination of the 's and the g in "'s gilden" would be pronounced /sx/.
- Ciciri (chickpeas): This was used by native Sicilians to ferret out Angevin French soldiers in the late 13th century during the Sicilian Vespers, the uprising which freed the island from Angevin rule. Both the Italian soft c /tʃ/, and the Italian r, were (and are still) difficult for the French to pronounce as that sequence of sounds seldom appears in French; also, in French, words are primarily stressed on the final syllable.
- Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis; wa't dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries (example (help·info)) means "Butter, rye bread and green cheese, whoever cannot say that is not a genuine Frisian" was used by the Frisian Pier Gerlofs Donia during a Frisian rebellion (1515–1523). Ships whose crew could not pronounce this properly were usually plundered and soldiers who could not were beheaded by Donia himself.
Castilian Spanish–Latin-American Spanish
- During the Latin American wars of independence, the name Francisco was used by Colombian rebels to tell locals from Spaniards. Whoever pronounced it as /fɾanˈθisko/ (as in European Spanish) as opposed to /fɾanˈsisko/ would have been thrown into the Magdalena River.
- The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 (also Tyler’s Rebellion, or the Great Rising) was used by the merchants of London in an attempt to get a competitive edge in the trade with the Low Countries by reducing the number of competitors. A massacre among the Flemings in London – not just the Flemish merchants – ensued. "And many fflemmynges loste hir heedes at that tyme and namely they that koude nat say Breede and Chese, but Case and Brode."
- Yksi: Finnish for "one", used by the White Guard to separate Russians from Finns in the Finnish Civil War during the invasion of Tampere. Many of the Russians caught had changed to civilian clothing, so suspected people were rounded up, even from hospitals, and asked to say yksi. If the prisoner pronounced it [juksi], mistaking the front vowel 'y' for an iotated 'u' (ю), he was considered a Russian foreign fighter and was shot on the spot. Any Slav or Balt, Communist or not, was killed, including some members of the White Guard.
- Höyryjyrä: Finnish for "steam roller", used by the Finnish Army in the Second World War. This word is almost impossible to pronounce for anyone not skilled in Finnish, with the frontal 'ö' and 'y' and rolled 'r' [ˈhøy̯ryˌjyræ]. For Russian speakers, also the leading 'h' is difficult.[circular reference]
Spanish–French and Haitian Creole
- Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo conducted a brutal massacre of undocumented Haitian settlers along the Dominican-Haitian border. The action is known as the Parsley Massacre. Suspects not fluent in Spanish either did not know or could not properly pronounce the Spanish word 'perejil' (parsley). The pronunciation of the word by Haitian citizens tended to be with a trilled r and without the 'l' at the end of the word.
- The Azeri word for Hazelnut, fındıq, which Armenians typically pronounce with a [p] instead of an [f].
- Soczewica, koło, miele, młyn (Old Polish pronunciation: [ˈs̪ɔt͡ʃɛvit͡sʲa ˈkɔɫɔ ˈmʲɛlʲɛ ˈmɫɪn̪]), meaning "lentil, wheel, grinds [verb], mill": In 1312, the Polish Prince Ladislaus the Elbow-high quelled the Rebellion of wójt Albert in Kraków, populated mostly by Silesian, German and Czech citizens. Anyone over the age of 7 who could not pronounce these Polish words was put to death, ejected from the city or had his property confiscated. 'Ł' (then pronounced as a velarized alveolar lateral approximant, aka dark l) and dental [s̪] are both unlikely to be pronounced properly by Germans since they cannot make out the difference from their own sounds [l] and [s]. (The former was approximated by Germans as l, and has evolved now into a sound similar to English w).
Culture, religion and language-specific shibboleths
- English-speaking Allied personnel in Europe, during the Second World War, frequently made use of passwords in which labio-velar approximants (w-sounds) were prominent, as these are unusual in spoken German, and the letter w is normally pronounced "v" by native speakers of German. For instance, following D-Day (1944) US forces used the challenge-response "Flash" – "Thunder" – "Welcome".
- Israeli forces during the 1948 Palestine war used passwords chosen to contain voiceless bilabial stops (p-sounds), which are not found in Arabic, and which native speakers of Arabic often replace with a voiced bilabial stop (b-sounds).
- In the Lebanese Civil War of 1975, Christian Lebanese soldiers targeted suspected Palestinians at checkpoints by asking how they pronounced the Arabic word for "tomato", which is pronounced "banadoura" in Lebanese Arabic and "bandoura" in Palestinian Arabic. If they said the former, they were let through; if they said the latter, they were shot on the spot.
- During the Somali Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab's 2013 shooting and hostage siege attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, the attackers asked for Islamic prophet Muhammad's mother Aminah bint Wahb's name and the shahada as religious shibboleths to determine Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslims were freed, while non-Muslims were targeted. An Indian man who could not name Aminah was shot dead.
- The mostly Christian Filipino ground troops fighting in the 2013 Zamboanga City crisis used the Lord's Prayer as a way to identify Moro insurgents. Those who could not recite the Lord's Prayer in any Philippine language, including English, were immediately suspected of being part of the armed Moro National Liberation Front and detained, leading to deeper inter-religious divisions as all non-Christians, including non-combatant Muslims, would also fail the test.
English shibboleths for native speakers or local natives
- Fish and chips: The accents of Australians and New Zealanders seem very similar, and the term fish and chips is sometimes evoked to illustrate a major difference between the two. In New Zealand pronunciation short i is a central vowel, [ɘ]. This vowel sound is sometimes caricatured as "fush and chups" by Australians. The Australian pronunciation has the front vowel [ɪ] (which is more common in most varieties of English) which, due to an overall vowel shift in New Zealand, sounds like "feesh and cheeps" to the ears of a New Zealander, sounding like an instance of the "Fill–feel merger".
- Pronunciation of letters of the alphabet:
- H: in Northern Ireland pronounced 'aitch' by Protestants, and 'haitch' by Catholics, per Hiberno-English. Also often pronounced 'haitch' in dialects of English spoken in former colonies of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, usually among non-native English speakers, but in the case of Australia, also among native speakers, especially those of Irish descent.
- Z: in North America pronounced zee in the United States; typically zed in the rest of the world. Known in American history and popular culture for distinguishing American males who fled to Canada from the US to escape the military draft in the 1950s and 60s. The Canadian pronunciation was featured in the Molson Canadian I Am Canadian advertisement in 2000.
- In Highland Dress, for anyone who has served in a Scottish Regiment or played in a pipe band, or whenever said by a Scot, if ‘plaid’ should be used to refer to tartan cloth, it could be pronounced: // (to rhyme with ‘had’). NB: This usage, as a synonym for ‘tartan’, is generally only ever found in North America. More often, however, when referring to the cape-like garment, in its various forms, worn over the left shoulder as part of the traditional or formal Scottish dress, the pronunciation is: // (to rhyme with ‘made’); though the OED accepts both pronunciations in this usage. To further stress the difference in pronunciation of the garment versus the cloth, the garment has an alternative spelling ‘plaide’, though rarely used. Thus: belted-plaid, drummer's plaid, evening-plaid, fly-plaid, full-plaid, piper's plaid, et al., are pronounced // by those who have worn, or are familiar, with the same. Etymology: plaide (Scots) via Scottish Gaelic meaning ‘blanket’ or ‘cloak’, (albeit usually made of tartan; most often the same tartan as the wearer's kilt or trews).
- Cairns, Queensland: Pronounced [ˈkæːnz] or [ˈkeːnz] by Australians, is pronounced // by speakers of non-Australian dialects. Although // is standard in the case of the English word 'cairn' referring to a stack of stones, most Australians consider it erroneous when referring to the city.
- Montreal: Anglophone Montrealers pronounce the name of their city with a schwa in the first syllable, thus: //. The tendency of English speakers from elsewhere in North America, especially the US, to pronounce the first syllable as similar in both vocalization and stress to the last (thus //), immediately marks them as non-Montrealers to local ears. (However Francophone Montrealers pronounce it [mɔ̃ʀeˈal], at least in their native French.)
- Newfoundland: Some outsiders pronounce the island almost as if it were three separate words, // new-FOWND-lənd rather than the local pronunciation, // NEW-fən-LAND, rhyming with "understand".
- Saskatchewan: Most Canadians will pronounce the name of this province with a schwa in all syllables except the second, where the stress is placed: // (listen) sə-SKA-chə-wən, but outsiders frequently stress the first syllable and fully pronounce all of its vowels: // SA-ska-chew-ahn.
- Regina, Saskatchewan: Pronounced //, rhyming with "china". Familiarity with the standard pronunciation may in some cases distinguish Canadians from Americans.
- Vancouver, British Columbia: Vancouver is often pronounced by locals as // vang-KOO-vər, with a velar /ŋ/ instead of /n/.
- Toronto, Ontario: Toronto is often pronounced by Torontonians without the second /t/ and sometimes with the first syllable elided.
- Calgary, Alberta: The majority of local Calgarians will pronounce the name of their city with two syllables //, while tourists will use three //.
- Genting Highlands: Malaysians pronounce it as [ˈɡentiŋ] (with a hard /ɡ/), whereas in English tends to be //.
In the United Kingdom
- Magdalen Street, Oxford: The street is pronounced as // MAG-dəl-in while the name of the College is always // MAWD-lin. This inconsistency has non-locals mispronouncing one or the other, regardless of their default way of pronouncing the name.
- Magdalene College and Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge: In both cases, locals pronounce Madgalene as // MAWD-lin.
- Boucher Road, Belfast: Despite its derivation from the French word for 'butcher', Belfast locals pronounce it // BOW-chər instead of a French-influenced pronunciation such as // boo-SHAY.
In the United States
- Houston Street, New York City: Locals pronounce the first syllable identically with "house" (//), while most visitors will employ the same pronunciation as in Houston, Texas (//). Houston Street is actually a corruption of the original name of Houstoun Street, named after Continental Congress Delegate William Houstoun, who pronounced his name in this way.
- Nevada: Nevadans say // nih-VAD-ə. Visitors often say // nih-VAH-də. Additionally, there are a number of smaller towns in other states bearing the name Nevada pronounced yet another way, such as // nih-VAY-də in Nevada, Missouri and Nevada County, Arkansas.
- Similarly, in Colorado: Locals tend to render the state name as //, whereas visitors are more likely to use //.
- The US state of Oregon is home to a county, city, river, bay, state forest, museum, Native American tribe, and dairy processing company called Tillamook. Residents pronounce it as //, while nonresidents often mistakenly say //.
- Portland, Oregon's Couch Street is //, rhyming with "pooch," unlike the identically-spelled sofa synonym pronounced //.
- Boise, Idaho: The city's name is commonly pronounced // BOY-zee. However, locals actually pronounce it as // BOY-see.
- Buena Vista, Colorado. Unlike other places bearing this name in the United States (typical pronunciations include /
, -, - -/ BWE-nə VIS-tə, BWAY-, -VEES-) the town in Colorado is called / / BEW-nə VIS-tə by locals.
- Quincy, Massachusetts: The city's name is commonly pronounced by non-locals as // KWIN-see. However, locals will pronounce it // KWIN-zee.
- Dacula, Georgia: Residents local to Gwinnett County pronounce the city as // də-KEW-lə while those unfamiliar with the area may pronounce the name of the town as // DAK-uu-lə.
- Likewise, Hull, Massachusetts would seem to be pronounced //, as in the front of a ship, but locals will invariably render it // homophonous to "hall", as in a corridor.
- Louisville, Kentucky: The name is pronounced by locals as // (listen) LOO-ə-vəl. However, non-locals will usually use // (listen) LOO-ee-vil.
- Miami, Oklahoma: Locals from northeastern Oklahoma pronounce the name as // my-AM-ə, while others pronounce the name like the city in Florida, // my-AM-ee.
- Appalachia: Residents of the region pronounce it as //, with short vowels, but non-locals rather pronounce it as /
- /, . The name was originally Native American, but came to English via Spanish as the local pronunciation is based on the Spanish equivalent.
- Pierre: South Dakotans read the name as // rhyming with "beer," not like the French given name French pronunciation: [pjɛʁ].
- Punta Gorda, Florida: Locals will pronounce it /
/ PUN-tə GOR-də whereas others tend to pronounce the first component as // PUUN-tə, more in line with its Spanish origin.
- Natchitoches, Louisiana: Locals will recognize the city and parish name as being pronounced // NAK-ə-təsh while people unfamiliar with the name may pronounce it as // NAT-shih-TOH-shəz or similar.
- Zion National Park: Utah, particularly Southern Utah locals typically pronounce the park as //, with the second syllable sounding similar to "gun," while interstate or international visitors will often pronounce it as //, rhyming with "lawn."
- Tulalip, Washington: Locals pronounce it with the stress on the penultimate: // tuu-LAY-lip. Some non-locals analyze it by extension from tulip and try // TOO-lə-lip.
- Moyock, North Carolina: Locals pronounce it as // MOH-yok, while most visitors pronounce it as // MOY-ok.
- Locals refer to San Francisco as "SF", or simply "the City" within the context of the San Francisco Bay Area. Tourists may sometimes say "San Fran" or "Frisco".
- In Southern California, locals generally use the article "the" preceding the number of a freeway. Northern California locals generally do not use "the" before a numerical freeway name. For example, Southern Californians usually refer to Highway 101 as "The 101," whereas Northern Californians will refer to it as simply "101." By comparison, people in the rest of the United States more often precede a freeway's route number with its highway classification, as in "U.S. 101" for a Federal highway or "Interstate 5" or "I-5" for an interstate highway.
- Long-time Democratic residents of Washington, D.C., will refer to Reagan National Airport as simply as "National," while Republicans and visitors to the area are more likely to call it by the name of the former president.
- Additionally, some residents of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area will refer to it as "The DMV" (the District, Maryland, and Virginia, specifically referencing the Fairfax, Alexandria, and Arlington Counties of Virginia; the city itself; and the Montgomery and Prince George's Counties of Maryland). This frequently leads to outsiders confusing it with the local Department of Motor Vehicles, or "Delmarva", the portmanteau of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (referring to the combined areas of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Eastern Shore of Virginia, and Delaware), both of which can also be abbreviated to "DMV".
- Language analysis for the determination of origin
- List of names in English with counterintuitive pronunciations
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