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Slang Jeopardy
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 06/27/2016

Comment The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

To some, language is beautiful because it is dynamic. Colloquialisms demonstrate the inventive human nature. To corrections staff, however, where safety is the key to every element of operations, changing language can be frustrating. We need to understand the unofficial languages of inmates. Without that knowledge, prisoners, staff, and he public are placed in increased danger.

This is a two part icebreaker that uses slang as the centerpiece.

Part 1: Build a Vocab
  • The class is divided into teams of three or four.
  • Teams select three slang words that they have heard on the job.
  • They write a dictionary-like definition. For example, DAWG – noun – a person who is regarded by the speaker as a friend or a familiar person.
  • One person from each group speak the word and the rest of the class attempts to define the word.
Part 2: Slang Jeopardy
  • The class is divided into two teams. This can be done with a line down the middle of the room or by counting off.
  • An observant facilitator can interpret skills from the Build a Vocab exercise and place extroverts and verbivores evenly on each team.
  • Either via PowerPoint, written on the board, or simply spoken, the facilitator announces the word or phrase.
  • The first team earns 1 point if they can provide a reasonably close definition.
  • If the facilitator or an appointed judge deems the answer wrong, the second team can earn 2 points with a correct answer.
Here are some examples of slang that are easily adaptable:
  • Bug Juice: Term referring to depressant drugs, deleriants, or intoxicants
  • Click Up: Gang term referring to getting along well with a homeboy, not looking for trouble
  • Dancing On The Blacktop: Getting stabbed
  • Half A Yard: "fifty dollars"
  • Kite: Contraband letter
  • Slinging Rock: Selling crack cocaine
  • Tits-Up: Slang for an inmate who has died
  • Street Newspapers: Gang term for graffiti, a communication device for gang members
  • Bug: A person who seems mentally unstable
Although the changing language can make a list of words seem obsolete, it is still useful to play classic slang (you jive turkeys). After all, there remains an element of ‘old school’ offenders in custody.

Also, be aware that slang has its own geography. A fish to some is green to another. Both mean inexperienced staff or prisoners. Different jurisdictions throughout the country use various terms for the same concept.

There are three great sources for the words. They are Internet, your facility’s inspector and/or Security Threat official and experience. In fact, this icebreaker can be integrated into a Security Threat Group module. Different groups and their favored terms can be featured.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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