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Spam: It's Not Only for Lunch

Updated on October 22, 2018

SPAM or spam

Before computers and the internet, Spam was just a tasty luncheon meat. Nowadays, if someone mentions the word “spam”, they get the evil eye. Heaven forbid if someone uses this four-letter word in the subject line of an email. While everyone hates spam email, “spam” is a very popular term. Google search results for the word “spam” will display the Hormel’s Spam website first (as it should). Additional Google search results include Wikipedia's entry for the luncheon meat, Wikipedia's entry for the term "electronic spam" and Wikipedia's definition of email spam. “Spam” also refers to a classic Monty Python skit. The term “spam” is not an acronym when referring to electronic spam. Spam email did, however, get the nickname from the Monty Python skit.

Hormel SPAM

Hormel’s luncheon meat was introduced in 1937. Spam is actually a shortened form of two words, spicy ham. (The first two letters in “spicy” plus the last two letters in “ham” form the word “Spam”). The history of this tasty dish along with special recipes can be found at its own website. The luncheon meat was heavily used during World War II because of its portability and lack of necessary preparation. It could be eaten directly from the can.

To open earlier cans of the luncheon meat required inserting the tip of a piece of the can into a key like ring and turning the key like ring until the perforated piece of the can came smoothly away from the rest of the can. The top could then be separated from the rest of the can exposing the product. The product could then be removed from the can and enjoyed. Many people today still take the product from the can, slice it, and put it directly between two slices of bread with whatever condiments he or she prefers.

The key like ring became too much for some people, therefore the cans were redesigned to open differently. Hence, the side pull ring can was introduced. This was not an effective way to remove the product without damaging it either. The newest way to open the can is the pull top ring which is by far the best way to remove the product without damage. Once the pull top ring removes the top piece of the can, the can is squeezed from the sides until it pops. This pop releases the product so that it may be easily dislodged from the can without damage.

Monty Python Skit

In 1970, Monty Python’s Flying Circus created a skit called “Spam”.  This humorous skit was set in a diner with everything on the menu being made with Hormel’s luncheon meat.  Throughout the skit, players dressed in Viking attire would loudly sing a song about this luncheon meat, drowning out normal conversations in the diner. 

Electronic Spam

Contrary to popular belief, electronic spam didn’t acquire its name from an acronym.  Someone noticed that junk emails, faxes, and other forms of electronic spam would fill email inboxes to the extent that it would cause important emails to become lost in the crowd.  This overload of junk reminded this person of the Monty Python skit.  Somehow the name “spam” for junk emails stuck.

What does spam stand for?  Nothing, except “spicy ham”. 

© 2011 Tammy L


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    • Tammy L profile imageAUTHOR

      Tammy L 

      10 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      Lidian, thank you for commenting. I am glad this hub was informative. :)

    • Lidian profile image


      10 years ago

      I never knew why they called junk mail spam, so thank you - I've learned something fun today and it isn't even 9am :)

      I have never had Spam but write about Spam ads sometimes on my retro blog Kitchen Retro - there was a Canadian ersatz Spam called Spork in the 1940s, can you imagine? Ugh..

    • Tammy L profile imageAUTHOR

      Tammy L 

      10 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      LOL sue, I was always told it meant "Something Posing As Meat"

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 

      10 years ago from Indiana

      I always wondered what "Spam" stood for. I figured it meant "Seriously Pathetic Artificial Meat".

      We love Monty Python’s Flying Circus... and I remember the Spam skit well!

      Nice hub, Tammy!

      Voted up and funny!


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