Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Why We Say: Spam—the case of canned mail


SPAM* in my day was not a Monty Python skit nor a designation in my email. Mom would fry it up and slab it between two pieces of mayoed toast. What do kids know about cuisine?

*SPAM is the official designation by Hormel.

8 billion cans can’t be wrong (image: Smithsonianmag.com)

The product SPAM is a meat product by Hormel and is a derivation of “spiced ham.” It became a popular food item around WWII, as its canned qualities meant it could be stored, shipped, and shopped easily. The US troops benefited from its convenience and it gave them something to joke about. There are odes about SPAM floating around.

On the other hand–

Spam is that annoying clutter that fills email boxes. It is electronic junk mail. It is not pretty and should not be glimpsed.

Unfortunately, one of my forwards was not appearing in my recognized mail box which meant I went searching. I took the plunge and went dumpster diving in my electronic trash. I found:

  • Keto ads
  • Loan enticements
  • Wine information
  • Online dating
  • Concealed weapon ads
  • Tinnitus info

And I found my lost forward. It looked a bit stunned and wasn’t worse for wear from the company it found itself in. I dusted it off and sent it correctly on its way.

As for SPAM…

Hormel originally objected being associated with the practice of unsolicited electronic mail. At one point it took legal action. Wired has an entertaining and informative article on the matter.

The real reason SPAM became spam was due to Monty Python. That explains it, doesn’t it? They created a skit where Vikings sitting in a tea shop would drown out any sort of decent conversation with shouts of “spam spam spam spam –wonderful spam”

Perhaps best seen to understand:

Monty Python “Spam”

Then apparently a blogger decided unsolicited electronic email was a sort of drowning out productive communication (like Vikings shouting in a tea shop), and the term “spam” arrived, which really hasn’t much to do with SPAM except Monty Python decided it was funny fodder for a skit.

There it is. From ham in a can to mail that gets a backhand to a one step above trash.

I’ll let you decide about the evolution of this product.

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17 thoughts on “Why We Say: Spam—the case of canned mail

  1. Personally, I like SPAM slightly more than eggs.

  2. SPAM is made about 90 minutes west of me. Once a year I buy a can, fry it up and put it between two pieces of GOOD bread (not cheap white bread … GOOD Artisan bread)…by the time I’m done with the can, I remember why I only buy it once per year.

  3. I only had Spam once when our power was out after Hurricane Sandy. I found it a bit too salty, but I liked it.

    Email spam I’m less fond of.

    And I prefer Monty Python over both the meat product and junk mail.

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