Prisonbirds Dictionary
An Outline of Egyptian Prison Lingo
كلام حبسجية

نماذج من مسكوكات السجن المصري
By Ahmad Said
© 2019/2020 UMAM D&R
Arabic with an English abstract

In 2012, UMAM D&R began the process of collecting expressions, phrases, and words used by prisoners in Syria. The collection of research was published as a dictionary entitled Keys of the Syria Prison. The collection came up in conversation with Ahmad Said in 2019 while discussing his experience of imprisonment in Egypt. The concept of the slang and terms used in prison as “keys” resonated with Said, and he set out to develop his own dictionary of prison terms he knew from his time in prison. 

Said builds upon the metaphor of the keys, envisioning them as on a chain with one end marked by his prison memory and left open at the other end, extended as an invitation for others to contribute and add to his collection of terms. Said additionally explores the role of language in prison and its function in a system of overbearing control.