Origin of the term "Spam"

Ok, the general belief is that the origin of the term “Spam” (bulk email) either comes from Monty Python lore or a reference to the Hormel product. Of course, Python was referring to the Hormel product anyway.

I’ve looked at a bunch of sites, and none of them seem to commit to either story. They all mention both, and no one seems to know how Spam came to be associated with junk email.

How did this high quality meat product come to such a fate?

Spam did not come into being as junk email. It was born as a cross post in newsgroups. Hence a fake post, as some people see spam as fake meat.

I read somwhere that SPAM actually can from the Monty Python skit where everyone is sitting around the table and yelling SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! !!

I don’t think anyone knows the actual origin… much like the term “420”…
Or maybe the Hormel people relized that less people were buying SPAM so they send bulk emails to people telling them how great SPAM is…

I propose (just to stop the confusion) that everyone refer to bulk e-mail as UCE (Unsolicited Commercial E-mail)
I don’t want to eat e-mail for breakfast…

Except they were singing, not yelling. And they were Vikings, which isn’t important, but nice to know.

OK, these two quotes have the elements of the origin, but neither quite gets it right.

Originally, spam was massive crossposts to every Usenet newsgroup (at the time, probably less than a thousand groups). The term spam was coined to describe this crossposting before anyone started harvesting email addresses from Usenet for emailings.

I don’t know who first called it spam, but the idea was that they were putting spam in each group. That is, spam here, spam here, spam here, spam, spam, spam, …

I was told it was an acronym for Sending or Posting Annoying Messages.
I don’t know if it is true or not, bu it fits.

From Ask Jeeves:

There’s a link to the transcript on the site. Not sure it will be usable here though…

The (ahem) “meat” product known as “Spam” comes from an elision of “Spiced Ham.” That’s the official Hormel company line.

Monty Python, in their late 60’s/early70’s show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” later did a skit that centered around a restaurant that served various dishes which all contained some ammount of Spam. Sitting in the corner of said restaurant were a bunch of Vikings who all sang “Spamly spam, lovely spam” and “Spam Spam Spam Spam” to the consternation of the waitress. At several points in the skit, it becomes impossible for the actors to continue due to the loud singing. Spam is thus a distracting noise that makes normal conversation impossible, or in its orignal usage, junk USENET postings that make it impossible to follow threads in your favorite newsgroup. Netlore has it that the term comes from the notion of throwing a can of spam into a rotating fan, thus spraying it everywhere, but I’ve never bought this since everyone knows the phrase is “shit hits the fan” and not “spam hits the fan” though certain people with delicate pallates may not find much of a difference.

The Sending and Posting Annonymous Messages is probably a late addition to the etymology, as this is the first time ** I ** have seen it.

so kinda off the subject - but has anyone tried Treet?

Treet is found in the same section of the grocery store as SPAM, except it’s made with the SPAM “sweepings”.

Hmm lots of different views on spam. Well just for variety here my recollection and analysis of the use of spam.(Not really all that different from the previous posters.)
In the Python skit the waitress is describing dishes like “spam, spam, spam, spam,spam, baked beans and spam,” The humor more or less being that word spam is used over and over though obviously it is not nessesary. The original use of spam was on newsgroups, when some idiot would intenionally post his new thread 10 or so times in a row just so it couldn’t be missed by the other users. Just like the skit it was the same thing over and over with no real purpose, so it got to be called spamming. From there the term just got to be used for most annoying things on the message boards, from cross posting, eventually to any unwanted email.

All I have to say is “P.O.S.H.”

As it happens, not only has Cecil mentioned this, but it’s currently the classic column. He mentions the Internet meaning, and attributes it to the Monty Python skit.

Off topic, but…

Try these URL’s.

A few years ago I ran across a bulk email program going by the acronym S.P.A.M. I don’t remember exactly what the letters stood for and now that the term SPAM is so prevalent all my searches for it just bring out sites referencing the current meaning of SPAM. But I think the last 2 words of the name were "And Mailer.

I have wondered if this was the origin of the term SPAM. I wish I could find that site again.

All I know is that back in the good old days, when I was on AOL 1.0 or so, before “spam” gained any of its modern meanings, I used to go into a lot of chat rooms. Whenever it got quiet, someone inevitably would start typing “spam” over and over. Yes, it was an homage to Monty Python - “baked beans” would sneak in occasionally as well. It quickly becames a problem. Some jerk would come into a chat room specifically to do that. Eventually, AOL added software that kicked you off the system if you tried it. Whether this has anything to do with it or not, you can decide yourself.

The junk e-mail usage of Spam still fits in with the original meaning. After all, like in the Monty Pyton skit, e-mail spam appears everywhere, sometimes several times. Now we just need some Vikings.

I understand it to mean junk in a can.

I have a friend who I’ve worked with in the restaurant industry who is a very well know chef in our parts, renowned for fusion cuisine, and the ability to make INCREDIBLE food.

While sitting at my house one day, in a drunken stupor, I challenged him to make something out of SPAM that actually tasted good. We spent about $100 on supplies, including $5.99 for the most enormous can of SPAM you’ve ever seen. The key thingy was like a tennis racquet. No, not really.

At the end of 4 hours, we had one dish (a sort of patee) that we considered to be somewhat tasty. The fact that SPAM made up about 3% of the dish probably helped. The fact is folks, it’s not food. It’s caulking. Don’t eat it. Really.

Actual historical documentation aside, I always thought the term “spam” was appropriate anyhow; a substance of which there is an overabundance, but no one particularly wants it.