One man’s meat

Tuesday 31st January 2012

SPAM has been around since 1937: an awfully long time for something to be clogging up your inbox.

The word is an abbreviated form of ‘spiced ham’: pre-cooked, tinned meat, made by the Hormel Food Corporation. On average, in the United States alone, 3.8 cans are consumed every second.

Kenneth Daigneau, an actor, received a prize of $100 for coming up with the name. Some say he’d always thought the word would make a good trade-name and had just been waiting for a product to which to attach it. History records little of his stage career.

World War II brought Spam across the Atlantic, along with many other American goods, notably munitions, offered under the Lend-Lease Act of 1941.

Franklin Roosevelt argued in favour of this arrangement by comparing it to lending a neighbour a hose to extinguish a fire:

“I don’t say… ‘Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it’… I don’t want $15. I want my garden hose back after the fire is over.”

To which senator Robert Taft responded:

“Lending war equipment is… like lending chewing gum. You don’t want it back.”

One supermarket is currently offering a 200g tin of Spam for £1: a saving of 49p: valid until 14th February 2012, the feast of Saint Valentine.

Most sources agree that the word’s use in an electronic context derives from a 1971 television sketch, featured in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Set in the Green Midget café – during a Viking invasion of Bromley – this comedy classic includes over one hundred mentions of spam during its two minutes and forty seconds. The show’s credits contain other amusing references to a typical ‘greasy spoon’ café menu.

Fortunately, most internet service providers’ filters are much better than they were and we are no longer bombarded with so many offers of cheap viagra, university degrees, and fortunes available from alleged widows eager to discover our bank account details.

And why would anyone want to buy a replica watch? Is it not better to have one that actually works?

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