How Spam got its name

Posted by Michael on September 22, 2001

In Reply to: How Spam got its name posted by R. Berg 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. Lovely spam! Wonderful spam! Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam. Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Spam spam spam spam!

: : One more spam factlet: In 1994 "spam" became a noun and a verb relating to flooding "the Internet with tedious or inane postings, especially sending the same message or advertisement to large numbers of news groups." And it is believed to be "linked" with the Monty Python sketch. From "20th Century Words."

: Kenneth Daigneau named Spam by winning Hormel's Spam-naming contest (what the contest was called before Mr. Daigneau provided his input, I don't know); see link below, to part of the official Spam site. "Squeal" was the company's magazine.

: I heard as a joke that Spam was actually an acronym for "Something Posing As Meat".