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Why spam emails are called ‘spam’

In my Maryland Lawyer story today about spam litigation, I mentioned how appellate court decisions in Maryland and California both upheld the constitutionality of the states’ spam deterrence laws.

But they also provided as part of their opinions the origins of the widely-used nickname for unsolicited commercial email.

SPAM, of course, is the legendary canned meat from Hormel Foods that has become part of popular culture. In 1970, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the legendary British comedy troupe, performed a skit involving a group of Vikings at a restaurant where one ingredient was prominently featured.

The cook and Vikings repeat the word loudly and seemingly nonstop, with the Vikings singing it like a song chorus.

“Thus, in the context of the Internet, ‘spam’ has come to symbolize unwanted, and perhaps annoying, repetitious behavior that drowns out ordinary discourse,” the California appellate court wrote in its decision.