third world countries

Discussion in 'English Only' started by scotu, May 23, 2006.

  1. scotu Senior Member

    Paradise: LaX.Nay.Mex.
    Chicago English
    I found the following in the WRF dictionary: Third world countries: underdeveloped and developing countries of Asia and Africa and Latin America collectively This definition doesn't quite do the job for me!

    What is a third world country? Is this term "politically correct?"*
    where did the term come from?
    There must be "first world countries" and"second world countries"?*

    An aside: *Does the "?" belong inside or outside of the quotes?

    Thanks for your counsel. scotu
  2. maxiogee Banned


    As to first/second/third world…

    This dates back to the Cold War.
    First World was American sphere of influence
    Second World was Russian sphere of influence
    Third World was non-aligned.

    However, it came to mean underdeveloped.
    Either way it would be incorrect (not just politically) to still use these terms as many Third World countries are aligned and always were, and many of what were Third World are developing, or have developed since.
    I don't know if Ireland was ever truly considered as "Third World" in the original sense, but it should have been as we have been neutral since Independence, but we were definitely an underdeveloped country until well into the 60s/70s and since then have really taken off.

    Hope this helps.
  3. french4beth

    french4beth Senior Member

    I would agree with maxiogee.

    Look here to see the wikipedia definition & history of the term.

    Also: for your 2nd question, the question mark would go after the closing quote; you would only put the ? inside the quotes if you were making a direct quotation of an entire question. For example,
  4. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Interesting history of the term - but I would say whatever the history these terms are commonly used today, and used in the sense of how developed they are.

    I see them quite often in the UK, so I don't think they are considered politically incorrect. I don't know how you would decide when a third world country became a second world one and when the second world one became first world.
  5. scotu Senior Member

    Paradise: LaX.Nay.Mex.
    Chicago English
    Thank you both for bringing me up to speed on this subject, and double thanks to french4beth for the grammar help.

    Now I think I will need to investigate when a country moves from "undeveloped" to "developing" and on to "developed" and who makes the decision that it has moved on. Is there another stage after developed ?
    Next I need to figure out if being developed or undeveloped is good or bad.
  6. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    Re the question of (!) where to put question marks, French4 beth is correct. Just to elucidate, however:

    If you are asking a question about a quote, which is itself a question, it would be, for example, Why did he say "are some of us looking at the stars?"?

    If you are asking a question about a quote which is not a question, the question mark would go outside the quotation marks. For example,
    Did he say, "some of us are looking at the stars"?
  7. maxiogee Banned

    Do you really see the expression "second world country"?
    — I don't think I've ever seen it except in the definitions and explanations of how "third world" came about.
    It was always "Eastern Europe", "the Communist Bloc" or "the Soviet Bloc".
  8. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Yes I have - I'm reticent to start bandying country names around, but I'm sure I've seen it applied to some South American countries (for example) which don't have some of the problems, natural or otherwise, that some African countries do (for example) but can't be described as having the stability or infrastructure of some other countries.

    I'm not influenced by the communist/non-communist distinction since I wasn't aware of it before this thread:)
  9. scotu Senior Member

    Paradise: LaX.Nay.Mex.
    Chicago English
    I agree I've heard it used (after this discussion, I'm sure incorrectly) applied to countries like Argentina, Chilie and Mexico to indicate that they were not third-world countries but they also were not the Big 6 (or 8 or 10, whatever the number is!) developed countries. Maybe it's a case of giving employment to an otherwise unemployed expression.
  10. Robbo Senior Member

    A continuum of terms has been used over the years.

    1. primitive countries :warn:
    2. backward countries :warn:
    3. undeveloped countries
    4. underdeveloped countries
    5. developing countries
    6. poor or poor or poorest countries

    If you visit websites of organisations that deal all the time with poor countries (e.g. World Bank, and you will find find that the preferred term is now poor, poorer or poorest. You may also see the term HIPC ("heavily indebted poorer country/ies").

  11. PaigeS Member

    English, US
    In anthropology we learned about developed, underdeveloped and undeveloped countries (aka 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-world). They describe various levels of economic development and, while it is subjective to some degree, they do use specific factors such as GNP and debt to determine which category a country falls under. I thinkk the 2nd world countries don't make it into the news as often, which is why it is not as familiar a term.
  12. titan2 Senior Member

    USA English
    If your looking for a politically correct term you might try "economically challenged", but I offer this somewhat tongue in cheek.
  13. scotu Senior Member

    Paradise: LaX.Nay.Mex.
    Chicago English
    Who makes these decisions that now "poor" is better than primitive, backward, or undeveloped?
    I doubt that the people of Qwertystan care which name we rich, advanced, forward, developed people apply toward them.
    Would the acronmym for the USA be HIRC?
  14. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    There is no central authority for these naming conventions or naming exceptions. Any individual person or organization can use whatever terminology they please.

    Note that this is a language discussion forum. We can discuss etymologies freely here. Please keep other related topics for the Cultural discussion forum.
  15. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    As long as we're speaking freely about terminology.

    "Third world country" is alive and well in AE. It means a corrupt backwater country, a pestilential sumphole with a one-cylinder economy, police thuggery within its borders but no military power beyond them, and scant assets in the tourism industry.

    To me the irony comes when people use the term as a synonym/euphemism for primitive.

    I have the privilege of living in the "first world." But I'm in a campsite at "Coralville Lake" (it's a reservoir in Iowa)-- and the place is positively hopping with raccoons. Worst are the mostly-grown juveniles so plentiful at this time of year, both in the woods (live) and on the roads (roadkill). I just shone a light on one deftly lifting the lid of my cooler, after solving the mystery of the latch.

    Can't wake up the whole campground dealing with him like I'd do with a skunk poking around my henhouse at home (in deepest, darkest Montana), so I guess I'll enjoy a relapse into childhood and acquire a wrist rocket. Whhhpp! No loud report, except maybe a yelp from brer coon. Problem is, non-lethal deterrents only make the varmints cleverer-- relevance to the third world? To say yes would be shocking, no?

    Competing for food with varmints-- that's beyond "third world," verging on wilderness. So the term isn't strictly geopolitical.

    I think one of those new high-tech air pistols. Not as non-lethal as your grandfather's BB gun, I've heard.

    Again the third-world analogical implications are very pernicious-- but not without pertinent reference. I talk not about politics, but simply the way words are used.

    I always thought "Banana Republic" was a little more straightforward and unapologetic about the "third world" as it exists irregardless of (now obsolescent) cold-war referent. Like the raccoon who's used to people and savvy about their food-storage stratagems, that world is most often a monster of our own making.

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