When you are sentenced to prison, you will most likely not use your usual name while in prison. Guards and other prison staff will use your last name or your prisoner ID number. As for the other prisoners, they either call you by your last name or your nickname.
Prison monikers have many different origins. They can be anything from references to where a person is from to crimes for which they were held.
When I was serving four years for marijuana possession, I had two different prison nicknames. Some people call me “Nay-Nay” which is just an abbreviation of my real name – Natalie.
I also earned the nickname “Google” because I was one of two college graduates I met in a camp of 2,000 prisoners. And, because my head is full of useless knowledge.
I always thought my gift for accumulating facts and figures in my head would make me Danger The stage competed for thousands of dollars, but instead, that knowledge earned me the prison nickname “Google.”
That’s because whenever someone needs to know the answer to anything — from questions on a GED practice test to who’s starring in a particular movie — they always ask me.
I share all of this because today’s topic is about prison nicknames. Today, let’s take a look at some examples in life.
In today’s blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- some prisoners had nicknames based on where they came from
- What’s up with food references?
- Many prison nicknames are associated with gangs
- crime based
- Animals, Colors and Fictional Characters
- prison nicknames can get wacky
- The Effects of Prison Nicknames
some prisoners have nicknames based on where they come from
The city or state someone is from is a popular prison nickname. When I was in prison, I came across a lot of these nicknames. The ones I remember include Tennessee, Chicago (or Chicago), Oklahoma, Birmingham, Orlando, and the Big Apple.
Sometimes a prisoner’s ethnicity or heritage became part of the nickname. Native American references are well represented. You can easily find a Tonto, Geronimo, Savage or Chief in almost any facility.
What’s up with food references?
Another category that has oddly gained popularity with prison nicknames is food. You’ll find Skittles, Chili, Nacho, Strawberries, Hot Dogs, and Cornbread.
I don’t know why prison inmates often have nicknames based on food, but it’s very common. Sometimes nicknames like cornbread refer to people from the South. Chili and Nacho can also be nicknames for Hispanic prisoners or people from Texas or New Mexico.
They can also get creative telling everyone to “eat me”. It’s definitely possible.
Many prison nicknames are associated with gangs
In the Missouri women’s prison where I was incarcerated, there wasn’t much gang activity. But in more urbanized areas, gang members often make up a significant portion of the inmate population in correctional facilities.
Because of this, many prison nicknames are associated with gangs. The letter C might mean someone is of Crips, or B for Bloods. The Latin Kings use “King” for their members and the Simon City Royals use “Sir”. Other gangsta terms are “G”, “OG”, for original gangster or old-timer, or “blue”.
Another popular category of prison nicknames are nicknames based on crimes committed by someone. Sometimes you’ll find “murderers” or “bank robbers”. Redrum can also be found. After all, Stephen King novels are super popular in prison libraries.
Animals, Colors and Fictional Characters
Prison inmates love their animal nicknames. If you end up behind bars, you are likely to encounter animals, tigers, calves, rabbits, mice or wolves. Maybe you’ll spot a turtle, badger, bull, bulldog or bird.
Be careful if you come across a man called a bear. He may be someone you don’t want to be around. He’s called a bear for a reason – he smells like a bear.
Color is another popular category for prison nicknames, often with a hint of irony. That means a white person would be called Blackie, or a black person would be called Lil White/Wyte. Sometimes inmates were nicknamed “Red” or “Blue,” which was often associated with gangs.
Cartoon characters are also popular in the world of prison nicknames. You’ll often find these names within prison walls: Smurf, Casper, Ghost, Dragon, Pee Wee, Shaggy, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Clown, Spanky, Bam Bam, Blinky, Bozo and Richie Rich.
prison nicknames can get wacky
One thing people probably know is that every state Department of Corrections includes known aliases and nicknames in an inmate’s registration file. So when you search the state database for inmates, you can see all the wacky nicknames the inmates use.
The Georgia Department of Corrections’ searchable online database includes inmate nicknames such as:
- sweet tea
- monkey juice
- stick of dynamite
- Strawberry jam
- nasty boos
- booger man
Here in Mississippi, you’ll find these names easily: King Pookie, Bull, Ren, Candy, Cowboy, Cracker, Dog, Dragon, Peckerwood, Mafia, Deadeye, Capone, Young Blood, and Nino.
Former prisoner Kenneth Kyle came across some funny nicknames during his 14 years in prison. He wrote:
“Some are ubiquitous—Stretch, Preacher, Shorty, Lucky, Cowboy, Solo, Fats, Junior, Nephew, Deuce, and Viking. Sniper is a little guy, five feet, 100 pounds. If he’s lucky, he’s Wet, and have Coke bottle thick glasses. Einstein makes stones look like intellectuals. What about the guys who are clearly trying to instill fear? Or, are they overcompensating for Diablo, Satan, Psychopath, Hitman, Gestapo, “Disadvantages” such as fatality and massacre?
During his nearly 17 years behind bars, Michael Roberts has also come across some unique nicknames. He said he met some “very interesting people”.
“People have nicknames like Baby 8, Baby Boy, Bam Bam, Bubbles, Cheater, Chino, Chico, Chicago, Colorado, Dangerous Dan, Denver, Downtown, Detroit, Demon, Diablo, George the Whore, Giggles, GQ, G-Hung , G-Ride, Kenny G, Honky, Hot Shower, New York and Los Angeles. He’s gay…
Leukemia Lynn, Money A. Papa T, Papa Bear, Big Bear, Black Bear, Little Bear and regular Bear. Coyote, Porn Star, Penguin, Roach, Shy Boy, Sidewinder, Snake, Little Snake, Spider, Snoop, Snoopy, Snoop Dog and Special K. Teardrop, Tombstone, Wino, Wobbles, Wolf, Workie and hundreds if not counting Thousands and more. “
The Effects of Prison Nicknames
Sometimes, you don’t know why someone has a particular nickname. But often, they can usually be narrowed down to a hometown or hometown, a gang, or a unique trait. Whatever the reasons for nicknames, they can have an impact on social dynamics and how someone is treated.
Some nicknames are a sign of respect, others of weakness. Some nicknames are meant to warn others to stay away from someone. Some are just name substitutes to keep things short and sweet. Others are meant to conjure images.
It’s probably a good thing if you’ve earned a nickname in prison instead of one. Like me and my Google moniker. Sometimes a nickname can serve as a marker. Let others know that you are easily annoyed.
What was your nickname in prison? Or, if you’ve never been incarcerated, what’s your prison nickname? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Do these 25 wacky convict names make you laugh -- or shake in your boots? The Top Prison Nicknames A Short Course In Prison Nicknames Nicknames for inmates, institutions revealing Prison Nicknames: Bones, Stud-H, Coolio, chihuahua, and more!