How Spam Meat Has Survived Spam E-Mail

How Spam survived “spam”
Photograph by Aaron Dyer

At Hormel corporate headquarters in Austin, Minn., they call it “unwanted e-mail,” never spam. It’s been a sore subject ever since the mid-’90s, when chat-room users first flooded computer screens with the word “spam” to blot out the comments of users they didn’t like. Wikipedia gives the example of Star Wars fans “spamming” Star Trek chat rooms. The word was chosen because of the famous Monty Python sketch in which every item on a restaurant’s menu includes Spam, Hormel’s canned, spiced lunchmeat. The skit was a back-handed compliment, a tribute to Spam’s success at monopolizing the British diet.

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