China wants to find PM2.5 a Chinese name, Netizens chime in

Alia | February 28th, 2013 - 3:08 am

It’s another heavy smog day in Beijing, and the Chinese government finally decided to do something about it – to find PM 2.5 a proper Chinese name.

According to Xinhua News, the official news agency of China, the country’s National Committee for Terms in Sciences and Technology plans to give an official Chinese name to PM2.5, a Western term that has become an extremely high-frequency word in China in the past year.

Picture by News Weekly

PM 2.5 means particulates or particulate matters smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (about 0.0001 inches). PM 2.5 level (quantity per cubic meters) is a relatively new standard for air quality. In the past, there used to be TSP (Total Suspended Particulate) and PM 10 (particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers), both of which have corresponding Chinese names. For example, PM 10 is Sniffable Particles (back-translated from its Chinese name of “可吸入颗粒物”).

PM 2.5, though a buzz word, has never been given an official Chinese name; and that’s unacceptable. For the Chinese government to effectively manage PM 2.5 (or anything really), it, of course, needs to be talked about in Chinese first.

In the eyes of Shen Guofang, member of Chinese Academy of Sciences, there are simply too many English words in daily life that the Chinese people don’t necessary understand. “For the purity of the Chinese language,” people in China should use as few English words as possible.

On February 27, the Committee held a special seminar to discuss how to name PM 2.5 in Chinese. According to Wu Rongsheng, another member of Chinese Academy of Sciences, they aim to find a proper Chinese term that is scientific, easy to understand and at the same time applicable in many circumstances. Chinese netizens, probably the group who have mentioned the term the most, have some pretty good suggestions.

The conventional:

“Toxic Dust,” “Fine Dust,” “Fine Suspended Particle,” “Floating Smog 2.5,” “Lung-invasive Dust”

The descriptive:

“Breathing Pain,” “Life 25% Shorter Index,” “Standing Right in Front of You But You Cannot See Me Index”

The creative:

“Shitizen 250” – PM is the initials of Pi Min (屁民) which, in Chinese, means citizens who have been treated by their government like shit; and 250 is a slang in Chinese for the dumb and stupid.

“Happiness Index”- because with this name, the Chinese government is able to claim another “world’s NO. 1”.

“Happy Particles with Chinese Characteristics”

“Cheat the People 2.5”

“National Secret” – Background: last week, China Environmental Bureau refused to dislocate soil pollution data in the country, saying the information is state secret.

“GDP Chain Index”

“Harmony Particle”

Suggestions aside, many netizens considered the naming attempt ridiculous. Netizen 魏世江 commented: “Instead of focusing on how to manage air pollution, these so-called experts put their heads together on something totally useless. If [these experts] are capable enough, why not re-name all terms and signs in math into Chinese? Why not write chemical reaction equations in Chinese? And why not look for ways to write programming codes in Chinese?” Netizen 贝酱一直想当许多家 shared the view: “Don’t they have better things to do? No matter what it’s called, it’s still hazardous air that we are breathing in!”

[UPDATE] OK, the official name is very likely to be “Fine Particles” (细颗粒物). Netizens’ suggestions are so much better.

What PM 2.5 > 450 looks like in Beijing today

Tiananmen Square today





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3 Responses to “China wants to find PM2.5 a Chinese name, Netizens chime in”

  1. [...] However, it’s also interesting that we’ve apparently reached a point where pollution is so widely accepted that it’s being used as a way to convince people to stop smoking.  Though the poster doesn’t explicitly mention pollution, that’s exactly what people tend to use ‘PM 2.5’ as a shorthand for (a catchy term which apparently went from 200 Sina Weibo mentions in Janurary 2011 to 3 million in 2013, and is still more widely used than any Chinese equivalent). [...]

  2. Daniel Tynan says:

    How about something along the lines of “fog with Chinese characteristics”??

  3. [...] at Offbeat China rounded up some of the more colorful suggestions contributed by netizens, but conceded that the rather drab Xi keli wu 细颗粒物 (“fine particles”) appeared [...]

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