In the sidebar I’ve just added a handy tag for Chinese jokes, that transpires to comprise a majority of my posts—hours of harmless fun for all the family.
I can’t yet work out how to introduce sub-headings into such tags, but here’s a simple list of how they might look for this one, with just a few instances. Many would deserve cross-references…
- clichés (e.g. official language, art, music)
- Daoist (e.g. Wordplay with Daoists, and More wordplay with Daoists, Fun with anachronisms)
- debunking authority (e.g. Forms of address, Kulture)
- Kratochvil, Paul: stories from (Exchanging spectacles, and Empirical language acquisition)
- pinyin (e.g. Interpreting pinyin)
- political (e.g. You don’t have to be mad to work here, but…, Periodizing modern China)
- puns (e.g. One-off sex supplement, and Prince Sihanouk, Classical erudition, A diary clash)
- Tang (e.g. Yet more French letters, Faqu tu 2, More Tang drolerie, On visiting a hermit, Homage to Tang poetry)
- transliteration (e.g. The definitive transliteration)
- visual (e.g. Literary wordplay, Reading Chinese: a caveat)
* * *
Call me a nerd [You’re a nerd—Ed.], but I’ve always loved indexing. After graduating—just as orchestras were mysteriously beginning to consider paying me to play the violin—I indexed books for Cambridge UP (notably for the Tang volumes of The Cambridge history of China), relishing the task of compiling hand-written index-cards (imagine that). Since I began writing my own books, I’ve always enjoyed indexing them too—it’s so good if authors can compile their own indexes, as detailed knowledge of your text can produce a much more instructive result, highlighting themes that may not always reveal themselves through a simple search for particular words. And they can give a real flavour of the subject. Again we return to taxonomy.
Pedantry and frivolity can go hand in hand. With sub-editors either indulgent or distracted, I’ve generally managed to sneak in a few entertaining entries. Alphabetical order can further create random and stimulating associations. I made an early foray in my index for Folk music of China:
temples (Fujian, Hebei, Shanxi; see also temple music)
A couple of nice sequences in Plucking the winds:
Verona, missionary base
In Ritual and music of north China:
In Daoist priests of the Li family I like the sequences
One entry that I inexplicably omitted to include is
- Scunthorpe, Messiah in; compares poorly with Daoist gig in Venice, 337
For more on that story, see here.
Nicolas Slonimsky’s brilliant A Lexicon of musical invective (a genuinely instructive caveat to our contingent aesthetic judgments) has a hilarious index (“Invecticon”)—here’s a sample:
While we’re on the subject of research (um) tools, the glossaries of the Barry Mackenzie cartoon books are masterpieces of indiscreet linguistic erudition:
physical strength 231
aeronautic capability 232
Corsodyl Mouthwash, brand ambassadorship of 24
(buy Corsodyl Mouthwash, the best mouthwash there is)
Countryfile, that woman who sued 10
backward unachievers of 24
“development” in 15–16 […]
sex in 2n
starvation in 228
Update: for National Indexing Day 2020 Ms Bain has written a fine survey of some of the best and funniest indexes.
I keep trying to encourage Chinese publishers to include indexes—they would make a really valuable resource.
While I’m here, it’s great to be able to cross-reference and give links online (as you can see in this very post)—which in a work published on paper would have to be a tedious footnote or a laborious URL. Not to mention publishing colour photos and maps. AND what’s more, unlike traditional publishing, we can continue editing them. Hooray for modern life!
Anyway, enjoy all the Chinese jokes.