Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Mon Apr 1 20:56:27 UTC 2002

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of James A. Landau
Sent: Monday, April 01, 2002 11:57 AM
Subject: Re: Acronym-etymologies

>If I remember correctly, the OED2 says that unsolicited E-mail received
>its name from a Monty Python skit but not whether the skit was using the
>name of the canned meat.

The Python skit referred to the canned meat product, but as something
undesirable and that couldn't be avoided. Much like emailed spam is
unavoidable on the internet. The context is a restaurant where everything on
the menu has spam in it:

Mrs. Bun: "Have you got anything without spam in it?"
Waitress: "Well, there's spam, egg, sausage and spam. That's not got *much*
spam in it.
Mrs. Bun: "I don't want *any* spam."
Mr. Bun:  "Why can't she have egg, bacon, spam and sausage?"
Mrs. Bun: "That's got spam in it!"
Mr. Bun:  "Not as much as spam, egg, sausage and spam.
Mrs. Bun: "Look, could I have egg, bacon, spam and sausage without the
Waitress: "Uuuuuuggggh!
Mrs. Bun: "What d'you mean uuugggh! I don't like spam.
Vikings (singing): "Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam ... spam, spam, spam, spam
... lovely spam, wonderful spam ..."

(Don't ask me what the Vikings were doing in the restaurant. It's just
Python silliness.)

The episode, "The Black Eagle," was recorded on 25 June 1970 and first
broadcast on 15 December 1970.

(From: "The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus: All The Words," Vol. 2,
Pantheon, 1989, p. 27.)

>Is there a term for words that consist, not of initials of words, but of
>syllables from different words (sometimes combined with initials)?
>E.g.  "TACAN" which is "TACtical Air Navigation" (a navigation system
>belonging to the military).

I always include these as acronyms. An acronym can use the initial letter or

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