This morning, I opened up one of the cans of SPAM I bought from the museum in Minnesota. It was the Garlic variety, and was – true to its word – quite garlicky (and delicious). Audrey and I enjoyed SPAM ‘n eggs, while Rusty opted for a SPAMburger. We all cleaned our plates. And this got me wondering why, exactly, we refer to junk e-mail as “spam.” That’s such a negative connotation for such an amazing, inventive and tasty product! So I did a little research, and here’s what I learned, courtesy of Wikipedia.
According to the Internet Society and other sources, the term spam is derived from the 1970 Spamsketch of the BBC television comedy series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus“. The sketch is set in a cafe where nearly every item on the menu includes Spam canned luncheon meat. As the waiter recites the Spam-filled menu, a chorus of Viking patrons drowns out all conversations with a song repeating “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… lovely Spam! wonderful Spam!”, hence “Spamming” the dialogue. The excessive amount of Spam mentioned in the sketch is a reference to the preponderance of imported canned meat products in the United Kingdom, particularly a brand of spiced ham (SPiced hAM = SPAM) from the USA, in the years after World War II, as the country struggled to rebuild its agricultural base…In the 1980s the term was adopted to describe certain abusive users who frequented BBSs and MUDs, who would repeat “Spam” a huge number of times to scroll other users’ text off the screen. In early Chat rooms services like PeopleLink and the early days of Online America (later known as America Online or AOL), they actually flooded the screen with quotes from the Monty Python Spam sketch. With internet connections over phone lines, typically running at 1200 or even 300 bit/s, it could take an enormous amount of time for a spammy logo, drawn in ASCII art to scroll to completion on a viewer’s terminal. Sending an irritating, large, meaningless block of text in this way was called spamming.
That’s all well and good and interesting, but I object. Furthermore, I demand we take back SPAM! It should be returned to its rightful status as the tin can American icon that it is, rather than being relegated to something we groan at when we see it waiting for us every time we fire up our computers. So, I’m starting a revolution! From this point forward, I’m going to call all that annoying junk e-mail piling up in my In Box cauliflower. Why cauliflower? Because that is a truly awful and hideous thing to behold. I have never liked cauliflower – I think it’s pretty disgusting, actually (and lest you accuse me of disliking vegetables in general, I can assure you this is not true – I enjoy most veggies). Other possibilities I considered – but eventually rejected – included lima beans, Brussels sprouts, oysters, and skim milk. I even thought about straying from a food analogy altogether and calling junk mail something like Walmart or Bush or Oakland Raiders, but things were getting a bit too complicated (and confusing), so I decided to stick with cauliflower. Cauliflower it is. That annoying message from Nigeria claiming I’m privy to loads of unclaimed cash if I just forward them a nominal fee? It’s called cauliflower. Do I want to magically enhance my manhood? Cauliflower, baby. Replica watches? That’s cauliflower that takes a licking but keeps on ticking. I trust I’ve made my point!
I realize this is a one-man battle I’m fighting. There’s nothing I can do about Gmail (or even WordPress) with their “Spam” folders built right into the program, although in the case of the former I can always create a custom Cauliflower folder and redirect the Spam stuff to go there. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but I’m ready, willing and relatively stable. Err, I mean, able. Spam is out, cauliflower’s in!
If you could help spread the word, that would be spamtastic…