If you’re about to head to prison, or you know someone who is, this is your essential guide to the basic prison slang and what it all means.
1. An all-day is a life sentence, so someone who has a life sentence is called an all-dayer. Someone doing all day and a night is someone serving life without parole.
2. Other lengths are much easier to understand: for example, a four-year sentence is a four, a two-year sentence is a two.
3. Prisoners will sometimes say they’re ‘doing bird’ to mean they’re doing time. It comes from old rhyming slang where time became bird lime, but now it has been shortened to just bird.
4. Food might be called nosh or chow, and the dining hall might be called the mess or mess hall.
5. If you’re working out, you’re banging weights (and If you’re muscly and fit, you’re hench).
6. If you head to the visitor centre and your visitor doesn’t show up, you’ve been ghosted.
7. If an inmate tells on you to officers, they’re a snitch or a grass.
8. An E-man is a prisoner who has tried to escape.
9. Cigarettes might be called batts.
10. While cigarette papers might be called skins or veras (like vera lynns).
11. And tobacco might be called burn.
12. If officers search a cell, it’s called a rub down.
13. And a cell might be called a cage.
14. If you’re a cell warrior, you’re someone who acts tough in their cell but is a coward face-to-face.
15. If you get high on drugs that another inmate gave you, you’re catching a ride.
16. If you’ve got a lot of something, you might say you have bare of it.
17. If someone has a knife, or makes one from another object, they might call it a shank.
18. And if one inmate is acting out of line, another inmate might put him in his place via a swift jab to the jaw – a chin check.
19. Prisoners will often refer to paedophiles as animals, wrong-uns, bacon or bacon-head.
20. A nicker is a chaplain, coming from old rhyming slang (nicker = vicar).
21. A judge is a vanilla, also from old rhyming slang (judge = vanilla fudge).
22. Inmates might call prison officers boss or screw.
23. A new guard on duty will be referred to as a cowboy.
24. And finally, if there’s a member of staff that the prisoners don’t like or trust, he/she is a bug.