SPAM, Not Spam, Is the Stuff of Memories

by Richard Vernon
From the Editor

SPAM, Not Spam

Why the need for filters? It's just pork shoulder.

Yesterday in a company meeting we were discussing the various types of spam we receive and creative ways of dealing with it. Somehow the conversation degenerated to tossing around the idea of a sculpting contest of Linux celebrities out of SPAM lunch meat.

This got me wondering about SPAM's position on the world's use of the term spam to describe unsolicited e-mail. Like almost everything else in the computer world, the term comes from a Monty Python sketch in which singing Vikings sing “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM” with increasing volume, preventing any other communication.

A visit to revealed a company with enough confidence (it feeds America's soldiers and is a delicacy in Korea after all) to have a sense of humor about themselves. From their FAQ:

Q: A lot of people—comedians, especially—poke fun at SPAM. Does it hurt your feelings?

A: SPAM doesn't live in glass houses. It comes in cans.

You even can download SPAM desktop patterns and icons (Mac and Windows only). They say they don't mind people using the term as it doesn't harm their trademark, but prefer that when used to describe electronic junk mail, it be spelled in lowercase, rather than their trademark uppercase spelling.

I'll say it hasn't hurt their trademark. Every time I hear the term, or even see some in my mailbox, my mouth waters. I must confess that despite my respect for pig the animal, I really love pig the meat—and I'm not scared by meat in a can.

Growing up in the '70s with a mother always on some kind of health kick we never had SPAM in the house, and my first experience with it was during a camping trip with my 7th-grade friend Carl Gerlock and his parents. Carl's dad was the kind of old man who came home from work, drank a big glass of vodka and would pretty much leave you alone if you didn't get between him and his television—oh, and he insisted on putting out his campfires with his urine. These people could put away the SPAM, and they did at every meal—and I was glad to help them (despite the nasty reputation, it really is mostly pork shoulder, ham and spices). I suspect there are a lot of other closet SPAM lovers out there since there have been 239,025,706 cans consumed since July 28, 1998.

I haven't eaten SPAM since that trip (my wife is at least as health conscious as my mother), but someday I hope to. In any case, I'll always retain those fond SPAM memories, and they'll always be invoked by discussions of spam. Incidently David Bandel discusses a nice cure for spam in this month's Focus on Software—if that's your thing.


Richard Vernon is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

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