[Ads-l] ham (antonym of spam) 2003

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 29 00:14:28 EDT 2018

A graphic for Akismet, the spam-catcher, says “1. Visitors submit comments on your blog…. 3. Akismet tells your blog whether it’s ham or spam."

Neither the Oxford Living Dictionaries nor Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ham <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ham>) nor Dictionary.com <http://dictionary.com/> (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ham?s=t <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/ham?s=t>) lists this meaning. 

I found 189 entries for “ham” on Urban Dictionary, and on 30 August 2003, Paul Zurawski defined “ham” as “real email - not spam” (https://bit.ly/2IBy3ZT <https://bit.ly/2IBy3ZT>).

Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ham <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ham>) has” (Internet, informal, uncommon) Electronic mail that is wanted; mail that is not spam or junk mail.” and lists “spam” as an acronym. The “uncommon” label notwithstanding, the expression “ham or spam” yields 58K raw Googits. 

As the Akismet example shows, “ham" is not limited to email but also includes blog comments, and probably any other sort of cybercomment, such as on Facebook.

It’s possible that the substitution of ham/SPAM in cooking may have contributed to this expression. The earliest such usage I found is 1999:

1 December 1999
"Oral History: Wilmer “Bill” Cox Morris” by the Historical Committee of the Outrigger Canoe Club (https://bit.ly/2lDWc90 <https://bit.ly/2lDWc90>)
I got some pressed ham or Spam in a sandwich with onion in it and an apple and a cup of coffee.

I have not searched Google Groups or any other such archive. 

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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