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Texas prison slang

Since I've got prison on my mind, I'll mention the Correctional Officers Guide to Prison Slang from the very unofficial TDCJ employee site.

It's full of delightful folk etymologies and overspecified definitions:

BOSS: A term used extensively by inmates to refer to officers working as guards (Correctional officers), this began in the early years of penitentiaries as "Sorry son of a bitch" backwards. Most of the inmates that are now incarcerated are not aware of this and the term is accepted by officers as a sir name.

WICK: When an inmate is low on matches, or has none, they will take toilet paper and roll it into a long string, and light one end. The result is that it will smolder slowly, approximately one foot (12 inches) per hour, and is used to light cigarettes.

Many of the terms are perfectly transparent to outsiders (D-town and H-town, ho, homeboy, hype, snitch, writ) and some are understandable with a little imagination:

PLAYA: Hispanic word meaning "Beach", used to mean showers.

SWOLE: When an inmate is angry he is said to be swole.

SYBIL: An inmate who is taking the psychiatric prescription drug, Thorezine due to the way the drug causes the inmates to act.

But some would make no sense without a scorecard:

T-JONES: Black inmates from Dallas, Texas, and surrounding areas refer to their mothers as their T-Jones.

And then there's a whole creepy semantic cluster of terms which equate masturbation with murder:

DEAD: (killed); When an inmate has masturbated while looking at another, the person that has been masturbated on is said to be dead.

KILL: To masturbate (derived from phrase, "killing babies")

KILL SHIELD: A garment worn by female officers, usually a long vest or jacket.

KILLER: An inmate who is constantly masturbating in public.

SNIPER: An inmate who hides in corners and masturbates while looking at female employees, or other inmates.

ZOMBIE: (walking dead); After an inmate has masturbated while looking at someone, they sometimes refer to that person as a zombie.

Maybe a Monty Pythonesque "every sperm is sacred" joke about killing babies is behind that, but it also sounds like HIV paranoia coupled with some kind of magical thinking. Is the implication that just looking at someone while masturbating will infect or curse them? There's definitely a PhD in this for a folklorist with strong nerves.

language 2004.05.17 link