Antedatings of "spam"

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Thu Sep 26 11:41:37 UTC 2013

The noun, at least, is older:

Usenet, comp.sys.amiga, 23 October 1987:

"This article contains a *little* bit of Spam. :-) Dirty Vikings!"

The sense is a bit different though. It's used in the context of a rant or

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 3:34 AM
Subject: Antedatings of "spam"

computing "spam" (OED v. [1991], 25 July 1994)

computing "spam" (OED n. [30 Sept. 1993], 30 May 1994)

Seems to originate in MUD (multi-user dungeon) newsgroups in Usenet.


computing "spam" (OED v. [1991], 25 July 1994)

20 June 1990, Russ "Nightfall" Smith:

All I have to say:  I was phoned once long distance about some individual
doing their best to spam the database (and doing a good job of it, I might
Remember that next time you think that people can't get into mischief.


21 June 1990, Bryant Durrell:

  Date: 21 Jun 90 21:01:48 GMT

   OK, so why wizards? Welp, let's take it from the point of view of
   the user.  What can I, as a user who doesn't like a given
   wizardless MUD, do to that MUD?

   First thing: I can spam the database in a big way.  It is more than
   easy for me to log on, macro up cash, and dump entire files into
   the database as objects.  Or, failing that, I can simply create a
   thousand characters, using a simple robot.  Describe them all, fill
   all the available big problem there, and it'll chew up
   disk space.

   Or even easier, I can macro a thousand 512 character gripes.  You
   begin to see the problem, I trust.


And some definitions from a 26-27 September 1990 thread:

Seems I'm not hip to the lingo.  Spamming?  I see a lot of reference to the
word, but I'm not really sure what it means.  It seems to be associtated
with 1.  Entering lots of commands.
2.  Causing problems with the server. (maybe crash?) Please explain the
meaning to me.

Same etymology as "trashing." Implied definition is "Putting so much load on
the system that it crumbles into a pile of trash / Spam / other useless

For a more vivid image, imagine taking some small cute animal and pounding
it with many many bricks. The result resembles Spam. (Yes, I know, it's
gross. We're immature hacker geeks and we *think* that way.

HERETIC! Ooh, you fool! Weenie! That's most definitely not where spamming
came from. Spam refers to a Monty Python skit, where vikings sing "Spam" at
a lady who floats down from the ceiling in a restaurant where they serve
spam with everything. The verb "to spam" would be to send lots and lots of
useless information (in particular, the word "spam") over and over to
someone, thus scrolling their screen with lots and lots of lines of "spam
spam spam spam spam spam"
etc. It has been generalized to mean sending lots of crap to servers as well
as people you want to annoy the hell out of.

A man who doesn't know his Monty Python is not a man worth talking to.

- Hurin, "could I have some spam spam eggs spam bacon spam spam and
          sausage and spam and spam?" (or whatnot) [End]

I have a friend who used to be active on the BBS scene (Hi Rich, if you're
reading!) who told me tales of social interaction in chat mode.
Often, when an annoying, usually newbie-type person (a "munchie") arrived on
the scene, they would (each!) invoke the 'spam' program, whose function was
to pipe a given file to the munchie's connection in the BBS equivalent of a
whisper bomb.  I'm told the most popular file arguments to 'spam(1)' ( (-: )
were lpr pictures of Ferraris and so forth.

So it seems likely that the name came from Python, but that this story is
part of the etymology of spam's use in the client/server context.


computing "spam" (OED n. [30 Sept. 1993], 30 May 1994)

30 November 1990, Finrod Felagund:

So what if Spectre makes an object that makes the Muck crash every time it
tries to dump the db?  After all, the people on the muck don't care if they
get thrown off because the mud keeps crashing.  They don't care if their
stuff doesn't get saved because of the crashes.
Nope nope nope.  Wanderer and folks didn't have to spend a good deal of time
trying to find this object that was causing the spam.  They weren't in the
least bit annoyed to discover that it was because of someone being an idiot.
Naah, they're 'reactionary' and 'spiteful'.

1 December 1990, Finrod Felagund:

Judge Finrod sentences the d00f to death by spam consumption.


Finally, outside MUD newsgroups on 2 July 1990, someone called Eric using
the name Spam Spamson posted several times to news.groups jokingly promoting
the food and quoting the Monty Python sketch:!original/news.groups/fiqCMi0t-IU/gdCYMHj3I

Before apologising:

[Subject:] Sorry about the spam
Sorry about the spam messages.



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