Monday, July 21, 2008

Chums, New- Chums and Chummage.

I am supposing that most of you know what the first two words mean but that you do not know what the third means nor that the first two originated from the third? Well, although they all come from the one word, and I hope that we are all chums, even if no longer new chums, I really do trust that we never meet in any Chummage ever. If you don’t know what the Chummage was, maybe you need to read a bit more of Charles Dickens works to remedy that lack of knowledge.

Before I tell you about the Chummage, let’s have a little bit of British history first, and talk about the Marshalsea. The Marshalsea was a debtor’s Prison in London. The original prison stood for over 500 years but the second one, for only 38 years before being closed in 1849. As hinted above, it is largely remembered these days because Charles Dickens father spent 3 months there in 1824 and the prison is referred to in at least 3 of his (Charles) writings. (Little Dorrit, David Copperfield & The Pickwick Papers.)

One of the buildings in the Marshalsea was called the Chummage. It was there that the new prisoners first entered the prison system, and when they did so, the new prisoners were each given a "chum ticket," which told them which room was theirs. The lucky ones arrived when a room was vacant, but most were expected to "chum" with other prisoners, thus becoming the new-chum there.

Fortunately Chummages no longer exist, although many of us may feel we are trapped inside debtor’s prisons with all the costs of living hanging over us. Yes, although Chummages no longer exist, there are always new-chums entering into our lives and occupations that we can be real chums too, aren’t there? Again, there is no need of a chum’s ticket these days, but again all of us could do with a chum from time to time, can’t we. And at other times, we can, in our own turn, be a real chum to a new chum too, can't we? What say you, chum?

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