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Re: Third World Man

At 3:46 AM 8/22/95, Jon Lasser wrote:
>On Mon, 21 Aug 1995, Peter Trei wrote:
>> > The US is slipping into the second world as we
>> > speak, with no signs of a turnaround ahead.  Only the sheer size of
>> > the economy keeps people from believing it.
>> Just a nomenclature peeve - I'm not sure of the precise time and
>> place the (first|second|third) world meme originated, but it seems to
>> predate 1970, and until very recently it's meaning was clear:
>> First world: Western (and Westernized) nations - mainly the US, Canada,
>>Western Europe,
>> Japan, Australia, & New Zealand
>> Second world: Communist bloc (I can still remember the Cultural
>> Revolution. Prior to that, the Communists seemed a monolithic force,
>> marching in lockstep.)
>> Third world: The rest, mostly poor nations.
>Erm, nope.  The "First World" (or old world) was Europe and Asia; the "New
>World" (not frequently referrred to as the second world, but hey...)  The
>third world was the developing nations.  THAT (as far as I was taught in
>history class, so it MIGHT be a lie...) was how the terms originated...

Then you should sue your history teacher for giving you a defective
education :-}. Perhaps she or he was of my generation and was at Woodstock
when she should've been doing her homework.

By convention, the First World is the set of "Western" nations, the
democratic, capitalist nations. The Second World, though not often used as
a term, is the set of Communist bloc nations. The Third World, by far the
most commonly used term here, is the set of nations not formally affiliated
with either the First or Second Worlds. These nations are often poor,
though not necessarily poor, and so the "Third World" is often
(incorrectly) associated with poverty. And, to confuse things further, the
"lesser-developed countries," or LDCs, are often equated to the Third

When a certain character in a television show referred to "Third World
mutants," he was also referring to "your basic brown types." (His words,
not mine. Ten credits to anyone who can identify the t.v. show and the

The term "Fourth World" has in the last 20 years come to refer to the
countries which are so impoverished as to be almost hopeless. Bangla Desh
is the canonical Fourth World nation.

--Tim May

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