Cadillac? Jail? Prisoners’ dictionary explains how words change meaning behind bars

Prisoners have produced a Prison Dictionary that records more than 60 words that prisoners, and even some guards, use regularly. The project came from a workshop led by Paul Lynch, 44, associate professor of English, as part of Saint Louis University’s Prison Program. The dictionary shows how day-to-day English words take on different meanings inside the prison.

Lynch describes the process of creating the book as “meticulous,” with prisoners poring over words for hours. They modeled the project after the world’s foremost English dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary.  First, prisoners gathered terms, then worked together to define them. Next, they took the list of hundreds of words and winnowed it down. They excluded words that, when exposed, would be dangerous for prisoners and the project.

Read more: St. Louis Public Radio

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