Posted by Word Camel on November 07, 2002
In Reply to: Have to disagree with Safire posted by Karl on November 07, 2002
: Initially, let me say that it appears incorrect that third world refers to the "non-aligned" nations.
: Did you ever think of Yugoslavia as Third World? Spain?
: Didn't you think of Liberia, Sudan, Uruguay and Laos as 3rd world countries, even tho in the 50's these were western aligned nations?
: What about the Old World - Europe, the New World - most of the Americas, the third world, the undeveloped nations of the latter 20th century? How dioes this definiton discomport with your understanding of a "third world nation".
Please stop getting rid of the previous posts, otherwise I shall have to hunt you down and make you watch reruns of Barrymore. If you are a Brit you'll know what I mean - if you are not then let's just say there are some fates worst than death.
It would be wrong to assume that "the third world" is an entirely rational or geographic concept. It's a bit like "The West". It is referred to all the time, but it doesn't make too much sense when you think about it. It is Western Europe but it includes North America and Australian and New Zealand but not Latin American, etc.
The third world has shifted its meaning and gone in and out of vogue. Many of the nations you mention above would have been included in the category by the 60's and many others wouldn't ever have been included in it though you could probably could have made a reasonable case for it on the basis of the evidence. Ireland and Portugal spring to mind. Some would have been included in the less popular term "second world" which referred to the Soviet Union and its satellites - this term never caught on.
More recently these places have been referred to as the "developing world" or "the south".