The 13-Carat Diamond

13-carat diamondThere must be hundreds of thousands of wonderful short stories like this that for one reason or another haven’t received the literary attention they deserve. Khin Mya, who wrote under the Khin Myo Chit, is one of a small number of great Burmese (now Myanmars) authors who wrote in English as well as their native tongue. The story is set during World War Two at the time Burma was under Japanese rule. It tells of the humorous experiences of a young couple who are finding it hard to . They come up with a grand plan to become rich overnight by finding someone who has a 13-carat diamond which they are willing sell.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

The original version of the story reproduced here comes from the February 1958 edition of “The Atlantic” magazine, which probably explains why American rather than British spelling is used. Of particular note for English learners is use of the American form of the word to refer to the pieces of rubber that go around the couple’s bicycle wheels. There are also a number of s used in the story:

  • When the narrator talks about her experience with a customer at her stall, she says that talking about prices made her head swim, and that after finally agreeing on a price she added a few strong words under her breath. The idioms here are: to , and to .
  • When talking about how poor the couple were, the narrator says: “Not having enough money to live on, to , is very uncomfortable”. Later, she says: “It just makes me feel so sad that we have to live like this when other people are money.”
  • When Ko Ba Than talks to the narrator about becoming a broker, he describes it as .
  • When the narrator sees that something is wrong when the men return from the large house, she talks about having .

General Comments on the Story

According to the author’s son, this story describes some of her own experiences in war-time Myanmar. Perhaps the best comment that can be made about it comes from a reviewer on the “goodreads” website who wrote:

Reading Khin Myo Chit is like sitting on the floor and listening to your Burmese grandmother tell stories of day-to-day life… under Japanese occupation.

The story is presented in a dry, self-mocking tone and makes quite extensive use of . Authors often use this to highlight social issues. As anyone familiar with modern day Asia will agree, two of the cultural traits made fun of in The 13-Carat Diamond continue to exist to this day:

  • the tendency to judge people by outward appearances (dress, house, mode of transport, etc.) rather than their true qualities; and
  • (in business) trying wherever possible to make easy money by “deal making” as opposed to adding any real value.

Could it be that rather than just seeking to entertain, Khin Mya was using the story to point out these problems?

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pen name(n: pen-name pl pen-names) A name used by a writer instead of his or her real name. (นามปากกา)

make ends meet(v: make (both) ends meet) [idiom] To pay for the things that you need to live when you have little money; to earn enough money to meet your basic needs. We had a hard time making ends meet. (ทำให้มีเงินพอใช้)

air-raid(n: air-raid pl air-raids) An attack in which a place is bombed by military airplanes. Much of the city was destroyed in an air-raid.

broker(n: broker pl brokers) A person who helps other people to buy and sell things (especially stocks and shares etc), or to reach agreements. An insurance broker; A stockbroker. 5000

carat(n: carat pl carats) 1. A unit for measuring the weight of jewels (such as diamonds), equal to 200 milligrams. 2. A unit for stating the purity of gold. An eighteen-carat gold ring is 75% pure. 8000

cigar(n: cigar plural cigars) A roll of tobacco leaves that is smoked, which is longer and thicker than a cigarette. 4000

(n: crack pl cracks) 1. A split or break in something that creates lines in its surface but does not separate it into pieces. (รอยแตก) 2. A sudden loud, sharp sound, such as when ice breaks or lightning strikes. (เสียงแตกเปรี้ยง)
(v: crack, cracks, cracked, cracking) 1. To make or cause a crack in something. The mirror cracked when she dropped it. (แตกร้าว) 2. To hit or press (something) so hard that it breaks apart or opens suddenly. He cracked open the eggs. (กะเทาะออก) 3. [of a voice] To change sharply in tone or pitch, especially because of strong emotion. Her voice cracked as she told them about the accident. 2000

cracked cup cracking eggs

diamond(n: diamond pl diamonds) A very hard, usually colorless, precious stone; used especially in expensive jewelry. 4000

earrings(n: earring pl earrings) A piece of jewelry or similar small object that is worn on the ear and especially on the earlobe. 7000

embarrass(v: embarrass, embarrasses, embarrassed, embarrassing) To make (a person, group, government, etc.) feel foolish, self-conscious or ashamed about something. 2000

first-aid(n: first-aid, noncount) Emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person. She gave him first-aid for his broken ankle.
(n: first-aid kit pl first-aid kits) A set of materials and tools used for giving first aid.

goods(n: goods, plural) Products that are made or grown in order to be sold; things for sale. (สินค้า) 2000

hut(n: hut pl huts) A small and simple house or building. (กระท่อม) 3000

jewel(n: jewel pl jewels) A precious stone (such as a diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire) that has been cut and polished. (อัญมณี)
(n: jewels, plural) An ornament or pieces of jewelry containing a precious stone or stones. She loved dressing up in her jewels.
(adj: jeweled or jewelled) Covered in jewels. (ที่ประดับด้วยเพชรพลอย) 3000

jewelry(n: jewelry, noncount; British jewellery) Decorative objects (rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, etc.) that people wear on their body. (เครื่องเพชรพลอย)
(n: jeweler pl jewelers; British jeweller) A person that makes, repairs, or sells jewelry. (คนขายเพชรพลอย) 3000

jingle(v: jingle, jingles, jingled, jingling) To make or cause something to make a light ringing sound such as that is made when coins or other metal objects hit each other. Bells jingled in the distance. (เสียงกระทบกันของโลหะ) 7000

kyat(n: kyat pl kyats) The basic unit of money of Burma / Myanmar. One kyat is made up of 100 pyas.

salary(n: salary pl salaries) An amount of money that an employee is paid each year, divided into equal amounts that are usually paid once every two weeks or once every month. (เงินเดือน) 2000
Normally used for professional or office workers as opposed to manual workers who are paid an hourly or weekly wage.

shelter(n: shelter pl shelters) A structure that covers or protects people or things against wind, rain, danger etc. (ที่หลบภัย) 3000

shrug(v: shrug, shrugs, shrugged, shrugging) To raise and lower your shoulders, usually to show that you do not know or care about something. I asked if he wanted to go out to dinner, and he just shrugged. (ยักไหล่เพื่อแสดงความไม่สนใจหรือไม่ทราบ) 7000

siren(n: siren pl sirens) A piece of equipment that produces a loud, high-pitched sound, usually used as a warning. (ไซเรน) 5000

sparkle(v: sparkle, sparkles, sparkled, sparkling) To produce small flashes of light; to glitter, as if throwing off tiny sparks. The diamond sparkled. (แสงแวว) 5000

stall(n: stall pl stalls) A small open counter or partially enclosed structure where things are displayed for sale. (แผงขายของ) 2000

stroke(v: stroke, strokes, stroked, stroking) To rub gently and repeatedly in one direction along or over something, especially as a sign of affection. (ลูบ)
(n: pl strokes) One of a series of repeated movements of your arms in swimming or rowing that you make to move you or the boat through the water. (พายจังหวะ) 3000

waterfall(n: waterfall pl waterfalls) An area in a stream or river where running water falls down from a high place; a cascade. (น้ำตก) 7000

tiretyre(v: tire, tires, tired, tiring) 1. To (cause to) lose energy and begin to feel that you need to rest; to become tired. I tired long before the race was over. 2. To become bored by something; to stop being interested in something. He soon tired of doing the same work every day. (ทำให้เหนื่อย)
(adj: tired) Feeling a need to rest or sleep. (เหน็ดเหนื่อย) I felt tired long before the race was over. 2000
(n: tire pl tires; British tyre) A rubber ring that usually contains air and that fits around the wheel of a car, bicycle, etc. The tyres of this car don't have enough air in them. (ยางรถ) 3000

(n: idiom pl idioms) An expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but has a meaning of its own which is generally understood by the native speakers of a language. It's a piece of cake. [= It's very easy.] It costs an arm and a leg. [= It's very expensive.] He has kicked the bucket. [= He is dead.] (สำนวน) 8000

head swim(v: make someone's head swim/spin) [idiom] 1. To confuse or affect someone very strongly. All these numbers make my head swim/spin. 2. To make someone feel that they are turning around in circles and/or going to fall down, even though they are standing still; to make them feel dizzy. Riding the merry-go-round makes my head swim/spin.

say under one's breath(v: say under one's breath) [idiom] To say something quietly so that others cannot hear your exact words. John was saying something under his breath, and I don't think it was very nice. I'm glad he said it under his breath. If he had said it out loud, it would have caused an argument.

(v: say the least) [idiom] To not mention as much as you could about something. The dinner was tasteless, to say the least.
Used to emphasize a statement by suggesting that what you are describing is in fact much more serious or important than you have suggested.

rolling in(adj: rolling in) [idiom] Having large amounts of something, usually money. That family is rolling in money. / Bob doesn't need to earn money. He's rolling in it.

child's play(idiom: child's play) Something very easy to do. The test was child's play to those who took good notes. Finding a good job should be child's play for someone with his skills.

a heavy heart(idiom: a heavy heart) A feeling of sadness or unhappiness. It is with a heavy heart that I bring you this bad news.

(n: satire, noncount) A way of using humor (through irony, sarcasm, ridicule, etc.) to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc. (การเขียนที่กล่าวเสียดสี) 7000

In literature, a method used to express meaning through the use of special forms of language. Most authors don't simply come out and say things plainly in their works. They use literary techniques to communicate meaning in different ways and make their stories or poems more interesting. (เทคนิค วรรณกรรม)

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