Weak-End Wisdom #4: Updating your country profiling jargon

Earlier this year, or perhaps last year, I found out that the terms “first world” and “third world” for describing countries were very passé, perhaps even border-line un-PC.

Rather, the terms to use for describing a country’s economic status are “developing” and “developed” .

  • Developed countries are countries like the US or South Korea; relatively wealthy, industrialized, technologically advanced, better infrastructure.  The criteria isn’t set in stone, but the general gist of the term is pretty clear.
  • Developing country is the term that has been increasingly preferred to the term “Third-World Country” (according to the OED) to describe countries that are more impoverished and economically underdeveloped.

It was pretty interesting delving into the etymology of “First World”, “Second World”, and “Third World” since until I did so, I always assumed that a rich country = First World, a poor country = Third World, and anything in between was Second.  Yet actually, this “Three-Worlds” theory (which came from Mao Zedong? (I’m a bit skeptical about using the Chinese government website as my main source)) categorizes countries based on economic and political status.  In fact, Second World doesn’t really mean a country that’s somewhere in the middle of First and Third, but refers to countries that used to be communist-socialist.  So interesting!

Anyway, to summarize, Developed and Developing are the words to use when describing rich and poor countries, respectively.  I guess that makes logical sense, doesn’t it?

Yet honestly, in my opinion, people should stop pouncing on words and jargon (and of course, they should stop feeling offended for others’ sakes when the wrong terms are used), and just get to work  on practical means of assisting in development.

Lastly, to put things in perspective for us, developed-country citizens, check out the Global Rich List to see how you compare.

Even with my meager part-time income, I still show up in the whopping top 14% richest person in the world category!


3 responses to “Weak-End Wisdom #4: Updating your country profiling jargon

  1. i know with planning.. we use developing/developed all the time, but lots of planners still have issues about those terms too. haha.

  2. I see the terms developed/developing as technically incorrect. America is still developing to be better in the future (I hope), while Congo perhaps could care less about developing.

    • Regardless of how you see it, Nate, those terms are the terms being used, and this entry was to simply call attention to the fact that calling a country a 1st-, 2nd-, or 3rd-world country is now very passé!

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