I Love This Stuff
This morning I reacquainted myself with chummage, the definition of which included another phrase I would not have thought to use as too modern, and whose usage I would not have guessed:
CHUMMAGE. Money paid by the richer sort of prisoners in the Fleet and King's Bench, to the poorer, for their share of a room. When prisons are very full, which is too often the case, particularly on the eve of an insolvent act, two or three persons are obliged to sleep in a room. A prisoner who can pay for being alone, chuses two poor chums, who for a stipulated price, called chummage, give up their share of the room, and sleep on the stairs, or, as the term is, ruff it.
This makes me wonder if "ruff it" is simply the author's choice of spelling (English was pretty rough-and-ready in the spelling department even in 1811) or whether it has another meaning or origin. I suppose I'm also delighted by this because YG's summer camp is Camp Roughing It (they do not, to my knowledge, make the children nap on stairs).
The racket at the prisons at the time, which were semi-private in operation, was that prisoners had to pay for everything above the most brutally bare minimum: food, light, blankets, space. You even had to pay a fee for your fetters: the more money you spent, the lighter the fetters were, and the more range of motion they permitted. So if you were really poor, sleeping on the stairs might have sounded like a good deal if it meant extra money for a decent meal or lighter bonds.