Number one for English language teachers

Word of the week: Spam

Type: Reference material

Do you remember this brand of tinned meat? Tim Bowen explains that, with new advances in technology, 'spam' is no longer something you might want to put in your sandwiches.

Most email users receive unwanted emails from senders with odd-sounding names offering a variety of products and services, which are also for the most part unwanted. These junk emails, sent simultaneously to thousands if not millions of computer users have been known since the early 1990s as spam.

This term appears to have nothing to do with the original word spam, which was a proprietary name for a brand of tinned meat first produced in the United States and much appreciated in the UK during World War II and the years of rationing that followed it. It is widely believed that spam originated as a short form of the words spiced ham. How the same word came to be applied to junk email is more of a mystery. Some people attribute it to a sketch in the British cult comedy TV series Monty Python, in which a group of Vikings attempt to order food in a typical greasy spoon café in 1970s England where everything is served with spam. Perhaps like the spam in the comedy sketch spam emails are so-called because they are excessive and ultimately unwanted.

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