Prisoners resurrect 500-year-old slang

June 8, 2009 at 3:27 PM

ROCHDALE, England, June 8 (UPI) -- The British Ministry of Justice is warning the country's prisons that prisoners have taken to using a 16th-century slang to hide talk about drug deals.

The 500-year-old dialect, which is known as thieves' cant or rogues' cant, was believed to have been developed by medieval gypsies and adopted by a handful of scoundrels across England. Officials at Buckley Hall Prison in Rochdale said the dialect has resurfaced as a code for drug trafficking, the Daily Mail reported Monday.

Officials said they determined that "chat" and "onick" are being used as code for heroin, while "cawbe" denotes crack cocaine and "inick" is code for a cell phone or a SIM card.

"This is the most ingenious use of a secret code we have ever come across," an official at the 381-prisoner facility said. "Elizabethan cant was only used by a tiny number of people and it is quite amazing that is has been resurrected in order to buy drugs. Some inmates will try anything to get contraband into jail."

The Ministry of Justice sent a security alert to officials at prisons in England and Wales warning them to be aware of the code.

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