How spam got its name

Posted by R. Berg on August 31, 2001

In Reply to: One more spam factlet posted by ESC on August 31, 2001

: : : : Why does the industry refer to unsolicited email as "Spam". Are the letters acronyms?

: : : From John R. Levine et al., "The Internet for Dummies":

: : : Why call it spam?
: : : The meat? Nobody knows.* Oh, you mean the unwanted e-mail? It came from the Monty Python skit in which a group of Vikings sing the word Spam repeatedly in a march tempo, drowning out all other discourse.

: : : *This isn't true. Spam the meat product, produced by the George A. Hormel Co. in Austin, Minnesota, where my mother was born, was named for "spiced ham." --rb

: : Spam n The proprietary name (registered in the US in 1937) of a type of tinned cooked meat consisting chiefly of pork; also (with lower-case initial) applied loosely to other types of tinned luncheon meat. Probably a conflation of 'spiced ham,' although the first quote below tells a different story. In Britain Spam became synonymous with the dull and meagre diet of World War II and eventually turned into something of a laughing-stock. 1937 Squeal: In the last month Geo. A. Hormel & Co.launched the product Spam.The 'think up' of the name (is) credited to Kenneth Daigneau, New York actor.Seems as if he had considered the word a good memorable trade-name for some time, had only waited for a product to attach it to." From 20th Century Words: The Story of New Words in English Over the Last 100 Years by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999).

: : Actually, I don't see how the fact that it was thought up by Mr. Daigneau means it didn't derive from "spiced ham."

: : "Spam" script:
: : Scene: A cafe. One table is occupied by a group of Vikings with horned helmets on. A man and his wife enter.

: : Man (Eric Idle): You sit here, dear.

: : Wife (Graham Chapman in drag): All right.

: : Man (to Waitress): Morning!

: : Waitress (Terry Jones, in drag as a bit of a rat-bag): Morning!

: : Man: Well, what've you got?

: : Waitress: Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam;

: : Vikings (starting to chant): Spam spam spam spam...

: : Waitress: ...spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam...

: : Vikings (singing): Spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!

: : Waitress: ...or Lobster Thermidor au Crevette with a Mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.

: : Wife: Have you got anything without spam?

: : Waitress: Well, there's spam egg sausage and spam, that's not got much spam in it.

: : Wife: I don't want ANY spam!

: : Man: Why can't she have egg bacon spam and sausage?

: : Wife: THAT'S got spam in it!

: : Man: Hasn't got as much spam in it as spam egg sausage and spam, has it?

: : Vikings: Spam spam spam spam (crescendo through next few lines)

: : Wife: Could you do the egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam then?

: : Waitress: Urgghh!

: : Wife: What do you mean 'Urgghh'? I don't like spam!

: : Vikings: Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

: : Waitress: Shut up!

: : Vikings: Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

: : Waitress: Shut up! (Vikings stop) Bloody Vikings! You can't have egg bacon spam and sausage without the spam.

: : Wife (shrieks): I don't like spam!

: : Man: Sshh, dear, don't cause a fuss. I'll have your spam. I love it. I'm having spam spam spam spam spam spam spam beaked beans spam spam spam and spam!

: : Vikings (singing): Spam spam spam spam. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!

: : Waitress: Shut up!! Baked beans are off.

: : Man: Well could I have her spam instead of the baked beans then?

: : Waitress: You mean spam spam spam spam spam spam... (but it is too late and the Vikings drown her words)

: : Vikings (singing elaborately): Spam spam spam spam