Dear Matt: I know this question is probably not very P.C., but I’ve got to ask it anyway. I think I have a pretty good idea of what the Third World is. And I think from that I can figure out what the First World is. But then what’s left to be the Second World? Is there a Second World? There must be if we have a Third World and a First World. Who started all this anyway? — B. Wildered, El Cajon
Wouldn’t you know it, it was a Frenchman. There’s some argument about exactly which Frenchman, but I won’t get into that one here. “Third World” came into currency during the mid-’50s, when it was used at conferences and in journals by some well-connected French demographers to refer to economically un- or underdeveloped countries. By their definition, the First World includes the technologically advanced capitalist countries; the Second World refers to communist countries.