The Undercurrent: Internet ‘spam’ maligns the canned stuff

Kathryn Jones

Kathryn Jones

As the lead writer, editor and webmaster of the Glen Rose Current, I’m also the gunk cleaner — I have to empty the spam folder regularly. It’s kind of like cleaning an electronic toilet.

Today when I went to empty the Current’s folder full of “spam” – the common term for junk email – I found more than 19,000 messages. That’s just since I last cleaned out the folder back in August. The unwanted messages consumed more than 900 electronic pages of space.

Before flushing the whole mess, I decided to inspect the spam. The saying goes that you probably don’t want to know how sausage is made, and you sure don’t want to know much about spam, either. To say it’s full of icky junk is kind.

I had messages in Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Arabic, but most were in English. The majority fell into two categories – they either were trying to sell “cheap” designer goods and knock-offs or prescription drugs.

I had filtered out many of the emails by using keywords such as Valium, Adderall, Percocet, Zocor, Xanax, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Uggs and Oakley. But just as nature finds a way, spam finds a way of wiggling its way in past the word filters into the comments to be moderated.

The third largest category of spam is people trying to sell sex aids or erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra and Cialis. Thanks, but I don’t need any of those. The last time I checked, I’m female and fully functional except for occasional brain blips.

The Current’s site is relatively small and geographically contained. So why would all these spammers from around the world want to post their unsolicited messages there? They do it because they can send their messages in bulk and because it’s cheap and easy.

Now the holiday spam is streaming in. The day after Thanksgiving was Black Friday for spammers and their targets as well.

Some spammers apparently think they can sneak in their comments for approval by the website administrator (me, in this case) and get them approved because of their flattering words. It certainly wouldn’t be because of their good grammar.

“Super blog you gots here, thanks a lot for sharing it!” one blogger posted. Another spammer, “Willy,” commented: “Awesome! Its in fact amazing article, I have got much clear idea regarding from this paragraph.”

Hmm, wish I could say the same. Maybe something is getting lost in translation.

“What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preservedness of valuable knowledge concerning unpredicted emotions,” read another post. Sounds pretty ambiguous to me.

“Thank you for the good writeup,” another spammer wrote. “It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! However, how could we communicate?”

How, indeed?

I hate electronic spam and wondered what the makers of canned SPAM, Hormel Foods Corp., thought about their brand name being used as a disparaging term for junk email. But they didn’t want to comment. “The SPAM brand does not typically address the topic of electronic SPAM or have an official reaction,” a spokesperson responded to my query.

SPAM had and still has its fans. The blue-and-yellow cans began rolling off the production lines in 1937 and “The Meat of Many Uses” found a hungry market of Depression-era families. Over the decades SPAM developed something of a cult following and pop icon status. There’s even a SPAM museum in Austin, Minn., where SPAM is manufactured by Hormel Foods Corp.

So what’s in that can? Only six ingredients, according to Hormel – pork shoulder with ham (“two cuts of the same piggy,” according to the website), salt, water, potato starch (helps keep the meat moist — who knew?), sugar and sodium nitrate to help preserve the pink color because “no one likes gray meat.” In fact, SPAM is short for SPiced hAM.

Internet spam contains a lot more than six ingredients, so I’m not sure the comparison is exactly accurate. But it is kind of funny – unless you work for Hormel or happen to love SPAM. I’ve only met one of those folks, and he was from Hawaii where SPAM has enjoyed a following since World War II when it was a staple of the troops’ diets.

No one knows for sure who coined the term “spam” for unwanted, unsolicited emails. But it has entered the popular lexicon and even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, the “definitive record of the English language,” in 2001.

Even as I write this, more spam is filling the Current’s folders. It seems like such a waste of time and energy for people to create this stuff and force others to get rid of it. The folks at Hormel are right. No one likes gunky gray meat — which is the equivalent of what spam is.

Kathryn Jones is editor of the Glen Rose Current. 









2 Responses to The Undercurrent: Internet ‘spam’ maligns the canned stuff

  1. Larry P. Smith Reply

    December 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    I mentioned “in-depth journalism” in one of my other responses. See, you even went to Hormel to check out the source.
    Wouldn`t it be nice if all journalists and reporters were as thorough.
    Great to see you and Dan at the reception for Nichole.

    • Kathryn Reply

      December 10, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Larry. It was a great reception for Nichole. Hope she gets lots of support from the community.

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