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What Does Spam Stand For

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What does the word "Spam" stand for? There's always been a lot of debate as to the origins of the modern terminology for junk e-mail that we all know and love as spam!

If we look at the Oxford English dictionary for spam it gives us the following two definitions for spam:

*a tinned meat product made mainly from ham.

*irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of newsgroups or users.

Ok so the second definition clearly explains the practice of sending huge amounts of unsolicited commercial e-mail to Internet users - this is what we know as spam. "Irrelevant and inapproriate messages" puts it as clearly as anybody could possibly need. Spam is also known as junk e-mail and bulk e-mail - you'll hear all of these terms (and some others too) mentioned when people talk about spam.

Now for the interesting part. There is a direct link between the first and second definition of spam that we have here. One was brought into being by the existence of the other.

The British comedy group Monty Python are, in a roundabout way, directly responsible for our usage of the word spam. Many years ago Monty Python performed a comedy sketch which revolved around a small café where two customers ask what's on the menu. The waitress goes and launches into a huge sales pitch which involved everything on the menu coming with spam included e.g.

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, spam, bacon, spam, tomato and spam; spam, spam, spam, egg and spam; (Vikings start singing in background) spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam.

The word spam was mentioned approximately 85 times in this one short comic skit. This led to Internet users, many years later, referring to repetitive, garbage e-mail as spam. And that my friends is where we got the word spam :-)

An alternative history of spam

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