The Pleasures of a Good Index

It is extraordinary that one of the most comprehensive ethnographies of Burman culture is still The Burman by Shway Yoe, a.k.a. Sir J. George Scott — a Scottish journalist, schoolmaster and colonial administrator who lived in Burma in the nineteenth century. The Burman was first published in 1882, but remains an amazing repository of information. You can get the book everywhere here in Yangon, in pirated knock-off reprints of the Norton edition. I was given a copy by a friend soon after I arrived, and I’ve used it so much that the cheaply glued spine is already beginning to disintegrate.

Amongst the many pleasures of Scott’s book is the wildly entertaining, almost Borgesian, index. And because I love a good index, I thought I’d share some highlights here:

 

 
Abuse, twenty-seven kinds of, 514
Animals esteemed, 101
Barristers, 516
Boat-racing, discouraged by Government, 364
Bôngyo fairies, 323
Building sham pagodas, 442
Buoyancy of temper, 66, 384
Cookery, objection to smell of, 70
Difficulty of becoming a human being, 19
Dirges, 592, 600
Dog, cat, and ichneumon, 568
Executioners, 432
Fowls, domestic, 84
   their astrological knowledge, 136
Hauteur, cause of Burman, 384
Insults to foreign missions, 440
King of the wizards, 413
Loosening of the elbow-joint, 314
Monkish laxities, 121, 136
Mortifications discouraged, 135
Obstructions in Mandalay, 542
Officials, subordinate, 512
People foredoomed to hell, 100
Pride, thirteen kinds of, 222
Rockets at monk’s funeral, 587
Shampooing, 421
Suppleness of dancers, 312
Tattooing, recipes, 46
Umbrellas, varieties of, 409
Volcanoes, mud, 167
Wakening sleepers, disinclination of Burmese to, 398
Yahu, the foul nat, 5, 550
Zodiac, signs of, 552

 

If that doesn’t make you want to read Scott’s book, there is a high likelihood that you are, in fact, dead.

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