Shibboleet: XKCD's clever code word explained

'Shibboleet,' XKCD's new word, mixes geek speak with biblical lore.

Two panels from today's XKCD comic about the secret "shibboleet." Find the link below to read the entire strip.

The web comic XKCD struck comedic gold once again this morning. The amateur-looking but expertly witty strip coined a new word: Shibboleet.

What's it mean?

Within the XKCD world, it's a secret code for bypassing unhelpful tech support. When you seem to know more about computers than the professional tasked with "helping" you, just mention this pass phrase to be redirected to a real engineer. "Hey, in the future, if you’re on any tech support call, you can say the code word 'shibboleet,' at any point and you’ll be automatically transferred to someone who knows a minimum of two programming languages," jokes an engineer in the comic, which was published Friday.

Shibboleet is a clever mixture of "leet" and "shibboleth."

"Leet" (more often "1337") is half-joking hacker code for elite, or skilled. A leet programmer or gamer is at the top of her game.

"Shibboleth" comes from the Bible. It's the Hebrew word for an ear of corn, but requires a true native accent to pronounce properly. Because the word was so difficult for foreigners to say, shibboleth became a code word for early Israelites, a dead giveaway that someone was an interloper. Now, shibboleth is a catchall term for any custom or belief that sets one group of people apart from another. The idea has been used in everything from the TV show "The West Wing," in which the fictional president wanted to tell if religious refugees actually believed in Christianity, to the video game "Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater," which used "la li lu le lo" as a codeword because it was hard for Chinese agents to pronounce.

What's your favorite geek pun? Share them in the comments.

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