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There is a word, somewhere in my dictionary, that means a joke that only a particular group understands i.e., in-joke. I can't remember it and have failed to find it with an online thesaurus, but it is particular to the idea of a joke and not just secret knowledge such as arcane or esoteric.

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In-joke it is. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-joke – Kris May 5 '13 at 11:38
Thanks Kris. I was looking for the synonym though. – RoDaSm May 5 '13 at 15:18
...private joke – Edwin Ashworth May 5 '13 at 21:39
Then there's argot humor (humour, for you Brits). – rhetorician May 6 '13 at 1:09
I know. However, it seems there aren't (m)any synonyms. – Kris May 6 '13 at 5:06

A bit of humor understood only by a particular group of people is variously called a private joke, inside joke, in-joke, or in joke, roughly in order of usage.

Private joke looks to be the oldest form, with many 19th-Century uses like this one (1890):

Having paid their money, and perhaps foregone the pleasure they could have enjoyed somewhere else, it suddenly comes upon them that they have been taken in, and are sitting in front of the theater only to witness the enjoyment of the actors, who are reveling in some private joke and refuse to let them into the secret....

The three variants of inside joke become common around the 1960s. (In joke is common before that, but earlier uses mean “in jest” rather than “private joke.”)

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shibboleth -

A shibboleth is a kind of linguistic password: A way of speaking (a pronunciation, or the use of a particular expression) that is used by one set of people to identify another person as a member, or a non-member, of a particular group. The group making the identification has some kind of social power to set the standards for who belongs to their group: who is "in" and who is "out".


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I don't think this is "particular to the idea of a joke," though. Shibboleths can be deadly serious. – sumelic Feb 1 at 21:39
All good humor is rooted in truth, and a joke can be deadly serious as well. Let's assume the "in crowd" are marines in World War Two. It's hard to imagine they wouldn't get a "kick" out of the following situations. --In George Stimpson's A Book about a Thousand Things, the author notes that, in the war, Japanese spies would often approach checkpoints posing as American or Filipino military personnel. A shibboleth such as "lollapalooza" would be used by the sentry, who, if the first two syllables come back as rorra, would "open fire without waiting to hear the remainder". – Jonathan Piccirilli Feb 1 at 21:47
I think you completely misunderstand something, either the meaning of "in-joke" or the meaning of "shibboleth". – Hot Licks Feb 1 at 22:04
c : truism, platitude <some truth in the shibboleth that crime does not pay — Lee Rogow> 2 a : a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group --- That's so fetch, She's so cray, <insert 'ANY' photo-meme here> – Jonathan Piccirilli Feb 1 at 22:06

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