How did Spam get it’s Name

How did the word “spam” came to mean “junk message” or “junk mail”. I was reading a post on Today I Found Out- Feed Your Brain ( and read the following article.

spamSome people have said that this was because SPAM (as in the Hormel meat product) is sometimes satirized as “fake meat”, thus spam messages are “fake messages”, this potential origin, while plausible enough on the surface, turns out to be not correct at all.

The true origin of SPAM comes from a 1970 Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit. In the skit, all the restaurant’s menu items devolve into SPAM. When the waitress repeats the word SPAM, a group of Vikings in the corner sing “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM! Wonderful SPAM!”, drowning out other conversation, until they are finally told to shut it.

It isn’t exactly know where SPAM was first used in internet messages, chat messages, newsgroups and etc. In a very short time span, the name was being applied to these messages. It is, however, well documented that people who first used the term “SPAM” was reffering to the 1970 Monty Python sketch.

Here are some examples of the first instances of the use of spam referring to unsolicited/unwanted messages : (Credit to Daven Hiskey)

  • First documented case among Usenet users was March 31, 1993. This is often incorrectly stated to be the first usage of the term spam as referring to spam messages. This first Usenet case came when Richard Depew, who had been playing with some moderation software, accidentally ended up posting around 200 duplicate messages in a row to news.admin.policy newsgroup. The first person to call this spam is thought to be Joel Furr on March 31, 1993. Depew himself when he apologized referred to his messages as spam.
  • A more likely “first use” of the word spam, referring to certain electronic messages, comes from MUDs (multi-user-dungeons). This was a sort of real time multi-person shared environment; a somewhat primitive version of The Sims Online or Second Life and the like. In it, users could chat and interact with other people, locations, and objects, as well as create objects and share them with the community. Basically a really advanced chat room. The name MUD comes from the fact that it reminded people of certain aspects of Dungeons and Dragons. In any event, spamming was used here to refer to a few different things including: flooding the computer with random data; “spam the database” by flooding it with new objects; and flooding a chat session with a ton of unwanted text. Basically, anything that had to do with filling other member’s accounts with unwanted electronic junk. One of the earliest documented uses of the word spam from MUDders comes from 1990 when they were, ironically enough, discussing the origins of the word “spam” as referring to electronic junk messages. Undocumented sources say it had been around quite a bit before that among MUDders, which is evidenced by the content of the documented message.
  • Others say that the term originated on Bitnet’s Relay, which was a very early chat system in the 1980s. Supposedly, users would occasionally come on and annoy other users with unwanted text, including the actual SPAM SPAM SPAM song from Monty Python.
  • Another similar chat system TRS-80 also reported the same phenomenon and also called it spam. Both these latter two chat system origins are not documented, but numerous former users of these systems have stated they remember this term being use commonly among users of these systems.
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