Word of the Week: Nong Min
“Chinese parents have child poop on airplane seat” was the title of a recent article on chinasmack.com
Having a child defecate on an aeroplane seat mid-flight is of course not normal by anyone’s stardards. However, many westerners who have spent a long time in China may express that they are not entirely surprised by this behaviour.
It is important to remember that whenever you see a Chinese person spitting, littering or urinating in public there are nine other Chinese people looking down on them as being a nóng mín 农民.
nóng refers to the countryside and mín is a suffix indicating a group of people. nóng mín therefore means people from the coutryside, but in terms of its derogatory connotations it can be translated into English as “peasant”.
In China there is still a large rural-urban divide, and people from the cities, shì mín, often look down upon nóng mín as being less civilised. Even if someone is not actually from the countryside it is not uncommon to hear nóng mín used as an insult.
Although nóng mín in still used to mean people from the countryside it is often used to describe a person who is uneducated, acts rudely in public, or is simply behind the times. If you don’t know how to use the latest iOS your friend might ask “nǐ shì nóng mín ma?” (Are you a peasant?) although this use is, of course, quite derogatory.