As it turns out, British comedy group Monty Python is responsible for more than just numerous laughs and several memorable films. Considered a cultural icon, the group has inspired a genre of absurdist comedy, been the namesake for asteroids, a programming language, and, appropriately enough, an actual species of python.
But, as it turns out, we also have Monty Python to thank for “spam,” the colloquial term for junk email. Though many have drawn parallels to SPAM, the preservative-rich canned meat product of memetically questionable origin, it turns out that a certain group of British comedians accidentally coined the term.
The acronym, but sadly not the taste, has been lost to history.
You may know the sketch. In it, a couple inquires about a restaurant menu that gradually devolves into SPAM, with a group of rowdy Vikings singing of their love for the product, ad nauseum, until they drown out the rest of the conversation.
Now, with Monty Python reaching the height of its popularity shortly before the debut of the Internet, it’s not hard to imagine that early adopters would, as we all know, be more than willing to quote pop culture online.
A few incidents of chat room harassment later (some even typing out the entire SPAM song), and spam had received a new, arguably worse meaning. Junk mail, inevitably prolific and suppressing any valuable messages, is hardly a new concept, after all.
Really, there could not be any better parallel to draw. Regardless of the content of the Monty Python sketch, the utter revulsion that individuals display to both spam and SPAM is perhaps as good of a reason as any.
It’s hardly exclusive to the Internet, either. Telephone spam and letter spam prove that, no matter what the medium, people will go out of their way to shove an unappetizing, unsolicited message in your face.