Learning to Love the Spam

When I was a wee little lad and there were only two TV channels available – both in black and white – I didn’t know that my family was poor. That’s not hard to understand if you can wrap your head around the notion that the concept of “poverty” is a relative thing. If you’re working in a Chinese factory for 25 cents an hour when all your friends are earning 5 cents, you are, indeed, the big man om campus, and tossing a dollar on the bar to pay for a round of drinks makes you a veritable Warren Buffet to your chums.

No, “poverty” is a relative thing, and seeing as having to go outside to take a shit then wipe your botty with newspaper was how I’d always experience lavatorial etiquette, you can probably understand how excited I was when we had an indoor toilet fitted in the 70’s.

the 60s

Happy Days?

Unsurprisingly, the family cuisine was not exactly on the gourmet scale. I swear, my mother could feed five of us with nothing more than a loaf of bread and a can of tuna fish. Jesus at least had the luxury of five loaves and two fish; my mom had just the one of each. Another of our favorites was something we called “cheese and milk,” which was a delicious dish made from… well, cheese and milk. By boiling up a quarter pound of cheese with a bottle of milk then serving it with half a loaf of “Wonderloaf,” we could enjoy a family meal sitting in front of the coal fire. Incidentally, this “cheapest-of-the-cheap” dishes is now called “fondue,” and by changing its name along with serving it in a fancy building, my childhood staple is currently so expensive that if we were back in the 60’s, I’d be that scruffy kid sticking his snotty nose on the restaurant window looking for scraps.

Another addition to this feast of famine was canned ham, or as we dare to call it at the risk of being sued by the Hormel corporation, Spam®. [1] Most regular folks will pick up a can of Armour’s “Treet Meat” or Walmart’s “Great Value Luncheon Meat” and happily call it spam – even though it isn’t 😉

It’s relative cheapness meant that it was a special treat for the family, especially if sliced thin, fried, and used as sandwich filling for “spam butties,” an excellent source of nutrition if you’re on the “Cardiac Explosion” diet plan or the “Cholesterol-coated Arteries” regime.

spam sandwich

Spam sandwich

In fact, its ubiquity lead to it becoming a cultural meme created by the ground-breaking comedians of Monty Python’s Flying Circus in their now-classic “Spam sketch.” If you’ve never seen it, here it is. And if you have seen it, you can’t get too much spam!

The excessive use of the word spam in this sketch lead to it being used by the early nerdy-geeky computer community to describe the proliferation of unwanted junk e-mails that began to dominate the in-boxes of anyone with an account. [2] Since then, the word has become much more encompassing to include all the different forms of junk now available in the forms of Twitter-spam, IM spam, SMS spam, Facebook spam, and blog spam. And it’s the latter of these that turns out to be a source of amusement. The recent post on The Urban Dictionary: The Speech Therapist’s Secret Weapon resulted in the following comment;

I would like to thank you for the efforts youve got produced in writing this article. I am hoping the same finest operate from you inside the potential also. Actually your creative writing skills has inspired me to start my personal BlogEngine weblog now.

I’ve left it without editing because poking fun at misspellings and poor grammar is part of the entertainment and, quite frankly, a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. What’s funnier than the actual post is the address of the poster; “buypenisenlargement.com/penis-enlargement-pills.” The total mismatch between the message’s content that praises the post and cites it as an “inspiration” and the harsh reality that the poster simply wants to pay money for a bigger willy is just deliciously funny.

And a follow-up post to my piece on Hated People and Celebrities turned up this praise-filled gem;

Howdy, It is difficult to search out well-informed individuals for this theme, however you be understood as what happens that you are preaching about! Thank you

This turns out to be from someone providing me a link back to a site selling Hermes bags – and their authenticity is somewhat doubtful.

So once I can get past the underlying implication that I am small-dicked transvestite looking for a new handbag,  I can at least take some pleasure from the inanity of the spam before consigning these little snippets of textual poop to my virtual trash can. There’s no real way to stop the spam, and the best you can do is keep it to a minimum by using filters and blocking software, but at least trying to see a little humor in the crap that does get through can make life less sucky – and after all, making life suck less is what it’s really all about.

“The Speech Dudes: Trying To Make Life Suck Less, One Day At A Time.”

[1] Spam, as you ought to know, is a brand name, owned by a company called Hormel. Like hoover, kleenex, and xerox, it has become “genericised,” a linguistic process whereby an adjectival trademark become a generic noun or verb. Legally, we should never say “I was hoovering the rug” or “Pass me a kleenex” or “I love this spam” unless we are actually referring to a Hoover® vaccum cleaner, a Kleenex® tissue, or a Spam® canned ham product. Put any of this in writing and the legal departments from the aforementioned companies could be serving you with a “cease-and-desist” notice quicker than shit exits a dysenteric. No, remember to alway put that “X is a registered trademark of Y and all rights are reserved.” There, I’ve said it.

[2] A common “etymythology” is that the word is an acronym for “Short Pointless Annoying Message” but this is more of a bacroyn – taking a word and then making a sentence from it. Some folks use the word aptronym to refer to an “appropriate” acronyn, which would surely fit the “short, pointless, annoying message.” Alas, the Python derivation is the correct one and all others are just fodder for whipping up an argument during a night out at the pub.


3 responses to “Learning to Love the Spam

  1. Re: note 2. bacronym, one assumes, rather than bacroyn? 🙂

    • Ha, absolutely! I could, of course, go back and correct the error but I prefer to leave such things in and have them discussed as comments. Why? Because I worry that internet-based content is so easy to “fix” that there’s an on-going revisionism at work that is in danger of makign it look like folks never make mistakes! And secondly, the mistakes are always entertainingly instructive 😉 In the 70’s I was a student with Andrew Ellis at Lancaster who was working on “slips of the pen,” and he had all his students carry around index cards to write down any errors they noted and then hand them to him. Considering I was not only reading linguistics but also a “free ninth” in psychoanalytical studies, you can imagine how much fun it was to read some of the slips!

  2. I take it your “makign” is a deliberate slip of the digit, then 🙂

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