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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||info about neologism 'spam'|
|Question:||Hello! I'm journalist and I work in a cultural quiz show. I'm verifying a question about the name 'spam' and I would appreciate your help very much to check this information, if it’s possible. The question I'm now verifying is: "We call ‘spam’ the unsolicited e-mails, but where does the word ‘spam’ come from?" Answer: A tinned meat brand - SPAM is a tinned meat brand. The Internet sense appears to derive from a sketch by the British ‘Monty Python’ comedy group. Is that correct? I’ve written to the brand but they say that “there is no direct link between the Spam brand name and usage of the word ‘spam’ in reference to the internet”. I should like to hear the opinion of an expert, such you in this case. I thank you in advance for your help and I am looking forward to hearing from you. Best regards,|
|Reply:||FWIW - I think this is an interesting example of how slang emerges, sometimes to the dismay of a figure of authority. It's etymology can be difficult to trace in some cases. Let's assume that the term does come from the Monty Python sketch. Since the Monty Python sketch refers to the overabundance of tinned meat in a diner menu, obviously e-mail "spam" is named after the meat product which is seen as dodgy (in the mainland US as in the UK). Therefore, I am not surprised that Hormel (the makers of SPAM) will not readily admit to a connection even if many believe it exists. Their other problem is trademark infringement. Hormel was in a lawsuit with a maker of "Spam Arrest", a program designed to block e-mail spam. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=2919344&page=1 P.S. In defense of SPAM the meat, I once ate a very delicious recipe of red beans and rice with SPAM. It is popular in the tropics where it can be stored for long periods with minimal refrigeration. It does have a lot of preservatives though.|
|Reply From:||Elizabeth J Pyatt click here to access email|