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Today in Nerd History: Spam

July 5, 2012

Photo by timag

On July 5th, 1937, Hormel Foods Corporation first introduced a new product consisting of canned pork shoulder and other various ham bits. (Part of the legend claims that the wizards behind the canned meat simply didn’t know what else to do with all the pig shoulders they had laying around.) They meshed together the words “spiced” and “ham,” dubbing the new creation SPAM.

Spam went on to influence geek culture in two specific ways. In 1970, Spam was featured alongside musical vikings in a nonsensical Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch.

It was this sketch and the character’s refusal of the Spam dishes that inspired early internet users to adopt the term in a new electronic context. Just as the Vikings continued “spamming” the conversation with repetitive singing, Usenet boards filled with repeated messages were also referred to as “spamming.” The term as since gone on to encompass any and all unwanted electronic communication.

Hormel, meanwhile, doesn’t particularly like their canned meat’s name used as something as undesirable as unwanted penis enlarging emails. But it’s become so pervasive in our internet language that these days they only get upset then the electronic version of spam is capitalized.

If you’re a fan of the food version of Spam, why not try making some Mini-Maple Spam Doughnuts? Happy birthday, Spam!

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