"THE OLD ORDER changeth," said the dying King Arthur in Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1842 poem "Morte d'Arthur," "yielding place to new."
He was right. "As I look at the countries that are chipping in here now, I think we do have a chance at a new world order ," President Bush told a news conference on Aug. 30, 1990.
He liked the sound of that phrase. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly a month later, he used it again in urging a worldwide ban on chemical weapons and a redoubling of efforts to stem the spread of nuclear and biological weapons. (The Defense Department lumped nuclear , biological and chemical together under the letters NBC, which is causing great pain at the National Broadcasting Company.) "It is in our hands to leave these dark machines behind, in the dark ages where they belong," Mr. Bush said, "and to press forward to cap a historic movement toward a new world order , and a long era of peace."
As the phrase caught on, Mr. Bush gave it a context of cooperative action to stop aggression. In his 1991 State of the Union Message, he called upon the world "to fulfill the long-held promise of a new world order -- where brutality will go unrewarded and aggression will meet collective resistance."
Where did he get it from? Possibly from James A. Baker 3d, his Secretary of State, who must have heard it often when he served as President Reagan's Treasury Secretary. At a 1985 meeting in Seoul, South Korea, when Mr. Baker lectured countries that "attempt to go it alone," the Peruvian Minister of Finance, Alva Castro, responded with a plea for a " new world order " to replace the International Monetary Fund and assume the debt of third world countries. On May 22, 1986, The Financial Times headlined a story on banking that grew out of this meeting "Towards a New World Order."
Another possible source was Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who told a conference of the World Media Association in the Kremlin on April 11, 1990, according to the Tass translation, "We are only at the beginning of the process of shaping a new world order ." For months, the Soviet leader had been using phrases translated as "unique world order" and "integral world" as well as new world order . Eight months later, he returned to the phrase in rejecting ideas of a loose confederation of Soviet republics, insisting instead on "our remaining a great country, one of the pillars of the new world order that is being built."
For the first time, the leaders of both superpowers were pushing the same phrase. (The closest previous pass at this phenomenon was when Richard Nixon tentatively titled his 1971 economic package the New Economic Plan but was stopped in the nick of time by my own vague recollection that this was the name Lenin used in 1921.) No wonder NWO (pronounced new-oh) caught on; if you resisted the phrase, you were out of order.
But our etymological dig is just getting started on this: where did the leaders of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. pick up the phrase?
It's United Nations diplolingo. In 1974, the General Assembly advanced a plan to redistribute wealth from rich to poor nations it called the New International Economic Order. That turned out to be a nonstarter (a word originating in British racing terminology) and led linguistically to the New World Information and Communications Order, a plan sponsored by Unesco to sanction government control of news organizations. Although the substitution of world for international helped the phrase, that notion was seen in the Western industrialized countries as a censorship scheme and faded away by the late 1980's.
Meanwhile, third world diplomats in the 70's had been pressing for a Law of the Sea Treaty; this was headlined in the May 5, 1975, U.S. News & World Report as "New Order of the Sea." The magazine reported that "American officials would prefer to negotiate a treaty establishing a new world order by general consent." However, this treaty was opposed by the Reagan Administration and its demise was helped by right-wing pundits who kept harping on its unfortunate acronym, LOST. U.S. News liked the phrase new world order and pioneered its use frequently throughout the 70's, although it wrote in that same May 5 issue: "You hear less and less talk these days of 'a new world order .' "
Henry A. Kissinger, as Secretary of State in the mid-70's, was hoping to build what he called "a new structure of stability, a new order of peace." That structural metaphor was picked up later by both Mr. Gorbachev -- perestroika means "restructuring" -- and James Baker, whose "New Architecture" never made it out of the basement. But any use of the term new order , without the interceding word world , is insensitive, because it has connotations that should cause diplomats to shudder.
Die neue Ordnung was Hitler's language for imposing a National Socialist regime throughout Europe, much as co-prosperity sphere was the Japanese phrase for their imperial plan. During a visit to Berlin in 1940, Foreign Commissar V. M. Molotov asked Hitler, "What does the new order in Europe and Asia amount to, and what part is the U.S.S.R. to play in it?" Two years later, Stalin was saying, "They have turned Europe into a prison of nations, and this they call the 'new order' in Europe."
But wait -- years before, at the 1932 Democratic convention, F.D.R. pledged "a new deal for the American people." His next line, drafted by Samuel I. Rosenman or Raymond Moley: "Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage." The newspapers (led by a political cartoonist, Rollin Kirby) chose new deal over new order .
The last spadefuls of the dig turn up a hyphenated world-order , meaning "an organized existence in this or another world," used by Archbishop Richard Trench of Ireland in 1846: "There is a nobler world-order than that in which we live and move," and finally, the Latin root ordiri , "to lay the warp," or to prepare the loom for the beginning of weaving.
All this digging shows how a famous phrase is not "coined," but rather updated or reconstituted or adapted. This one is worth watching; it may fit the same sort of linguistic need that enshrined cold war and Iron Curtain , which were popularized (but not coined) by Bernard Baruch and Winston Churchill.
The question "Where does new world order come from?" is easy enough to answer, as we have seen; the nice double meaning of new world and world order has yet to be remarked, as if the orderliness of the world is to be the responsibility of the New World, or Western Hemisphere. The next question is "What does new world order mean?" Sorry, that's beyond the phrasedick paygrade. For the definition, we political lexicographers must defer to political leaders; President Bush has not yet made his " New World Order speech."