|Slang City Mail|
|October 2, 2008|
Slang of the Week: mackerel (noun)
Yesterday, however, I was reading the Wall Street Journal, where I discovered that mackerel is now a monetary unit in prisons. I don’t mean that figuratively, the way we use lettuce, cheddar or bread to mean money. Forbidden from using US currency, prisoners in some penitentiaries have replaced banknotes with actual packages of fish. This has led to an increase in mackerel sales to prison commissaries in recent years, despite the fact that few prisoners enjoy eating them.
This usage has some interesting counterparts in both money and prison slang. While the similarly water-based clams (dollars) has a vintage sound, it is still in use. On the popular crime-solving drama CSI, character Greg Sanders criticizes a man who “charges 300 clams to test your spouse's underwear for foreign DNA.” In prison, a new inmate is a fish, and his welcome package of toiletries and other necessities is called a fish kit, while a fishing line is used to drag items such as kites (letters) between cells.
Read the WSJ’s pun-filled article here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122290720439096481.html?mod=todays_us_page_one