Spam emails are a common annoyance for anyone who uses the internet, but have you ever wondered how they got their name? The answer lies in a classic comedy sketch by the British troupe Monty Python, which aired in 1970.
The sketch features a couple trying to order breakfast at a cafe that serves nothing but Spam, the canned meat product made by Hormel Foods. As they look at the menu, they are constantly interrupted by a group of Vikings singing “Spam, spam, spam, spam” louder and louder, drowning out any other conversation.
The sketch became a cult hit and inspired the use of the term “spam” to describe unwanted mass messages on online platforms. According to Hormel Foods, the analogy applied because unsolicited emails were seen as drowning out normal discourse on the internet.
Hormel Foods was not happy with this association and tried to protect its trademark by asking people to use “spam” in lowercase letters for junk emails and “SPAM” in uppercase letters for its product. The company also sent a letter to a notorious email spammer in 1997, objecting to his use of the word “spam” and his registration of the website “spamford.com”.
However, the company eventually gave up its legal battle and accepted the slang term “spam” for unsolicited emails. In a policy statement on its website, Hormel Foods said it “does not object” to the use of the term, as long as it does not involve its product image.
Spam emails have become a huge problem for internet users, with billions of messages sent every day. Some of them are harmless advertisements, while others are malicious attempts to scam people or spread viruses. Spam emails can also waste time, money and resources for both senders and receivers.
There are various ways to deal with spam emails, such as using filters, reporting them or simply ignoring them. However, there is no foolproof solution to stop them completely. Perhaps the best way to cope with spam emails is to laugh at them, just like Monty Python did with Spam.
– A Brief History of SPAM, and Spam, WIRED, May 26, 2001
– What Is Spam, and Why Do We Call It That?, How-To Geek, Dec 20, 2021
– Minnesota Based Hormel Foods Hates ‘Spam’ Emails, Minnesota’s New Country, Jan 25, 2022