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To find the term 'third world' inappropriate

(18 Posts)
Snortles Fri 22-Jun-18 13:07:40

This morning I rang our local opticians asking if I could drop off DS's old glasses, I wasn't sure whether they recycle. His old pairs have accumulated the past few years and all in pretty good condition. (He looks after his things really well and is a hoarder which we are delicately working on).

Employee on the phone replied that they do, and that they give them to the Third World.
'Third World?' I repeated in surprise.
'Yes. We put them in a small box and send them to the Third World'.

I am quite shock tbh. I didn't like the person's tone at all but do people still use that term? I thought it had died out and always use the term Developing World myself as it's more respectful.

I wish I had said something to the employee but I'm unsure if it's me being overly sensitive/offended. If I am right in thinking it's inappropriate then I'll say something when I drop them off (I madr a mental note of their name).

But AIBU, or a 'Snowflake'?

vandrew4 Fri 22-Jun-18 13:11:13

christ almighty. i wish that was all i had to be concerned about. and what do you mean by you didn't like their tone?
you sound bloody hard work

SlackerMum1 Fri 22-Jun-18 13:13:51

Low/middle/high income countries has replaced terms like third or developing world. So shouldn’t really use the latter either if you want to be pedantic about it.

Firesuit Fri 22-Jun-18 13:15:03

Surely "developing world" is intrinsically more patronising/insulting than "third world", which contains no explicit judgements?

araiwa Fri 22-Jun-18 13:18:19

Third world has nothing to do with economy.

Firesuit Fri 22-Jun-18 13:19:49

I imagine if someone described my country as "developing world" it would be with an air of looking down on it. "Third world" is obsolete because the cold war is over, but it never explicitly meant less developed, it meant non-aligned with Nato or Communist countries.

LeahJack Fri 22-Jun-18 13:20:28

It doesn’t imply judgement or a lesser status. It’s origins are the Cold War where countries were divided into the 1st World (supporting the West) or the 2nd World (supporting communists) or a neutral or 3rd world country. Wealthy nations like Sweden, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Ireland are 3rd world.

LeahJack Fri 22-Jun-18 13:20:42


Oakmaiden Fri 22-Jun-18 13:22:12

Huh. Didn't know that. Really interesting, thanks.

Omgineedanamechange Fri 22-Jun-18 13:28:54

Quite honestly I don’t think people who need this kind of help give a flying fuck if you call their country third world, developing, low income or whatever else. I’m sure they have much bigger things to worry about, and anyway they have over privileged, virtue signellers with nothing else to worry about wringing their hands in horror at a turn of phrase for them.

Somerford Fri 22-Jun-18 13:51:03

It sounds like you're trying really hard to be offended here. And making a note of the employee's name so that you can cause problems for them at a later date is absurd. Let it go.

BeautifulFern Fri 22-Jun-18 13:52:30

Some people just want to be professionally offended all the time over the most trivial things.

I bet it made you feel superior though, OP.


crispysausagerolls Fri 22-Jun-18 14:11:18



pannikin Fri 22-Jun-18 14:13:02

'Global south' is a better term to use than third world. 'Third world' also homogenises all of the 'poor' countries and is akin to the ignorance of referring to Africa as a country.

CoalTit Fri 22-Jun-18 14:23:28

I think you've fallen into the very common trap of seeing fashionable terminology as respectful and correct, OP. But if you think about it, and if you know what "third world" meant before people started using it to mean "dirty and poor", then the term "developing world" is outrageously patronising, implying that other countries just have to keep improving until they get to be as good as us in rich countries.
And if you know anything about world history you'll know that's not how it works at all.

CoalTit Fri 22-Jun-18 14:38:56

I should have said that you may have been quite right about the employee's tone. That's how the phenomenon called euphemism creep comes about, and the reason new terms for disability -- especially intellectual disability -- are constantly coming into use as previous ones are used with a condescending tone, then fall out of favour, become a mark of boorishness on the part of the user, and end up as full-blown insults (idiot, moron, hooligan) as everyone forgets their origins.
There's not much to be done about it, as it's awfully hard to refute the tone of someone's voice.

iwishicouldbelikedavidwatts Fri 22-Jun-18 14:47:12

It’s origins are the Cold War where countries were divided into the 1st World (supporting the West) or the 2nd World (supporting communists) or a neutral or 3rd world country.

thankyou! i've always vaguely wondered (but not enough to look it up) what the "2nd world" was :D

CuriousaboutSamphire Fri 22-Jun-18 14:48:09

It's that kind of thinking that meant the sending of out of date stuff stopped. Apparently it is condescending to send "them" stuff you wouldn't use for yourself... so all that medical kit now goes in the bin... sterile bandages that could be used as non sterile bandages, gloves, short dated stuff, just out of date steri strips, eye wash and plasters.

yeah... I am sure "They" would rather a stop gap than sweet fuck all!

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