Date: Tue, 12 Sep 1995 09:28:14 -0700 From: David Harnick-Shapiro Subject: Re: Internet Term Stumper (fwd) On Mon, 11 Sep 1995 22:34, Daniel S Goodman forwarded: > I hope I don't get spammed for this, but does anyone know how the > term 'spamming' got coined for mass e-mailing? > > I checked the Internet books that are available in my library, but > spamming is not mentioned. THE source for computer-related slang is the "Jargon file"; while not the work of trained lexicologists, at least native speakers tend to agree with its pronouncements. And it says: spam vt. [from "Monty Python's Flying Circus"] 1. To crash a program by overrunning a fixed-size buffer with excessively large input data. See also buffer overflow, overrun screw, smash the stack. 2. To cause a newsgroup to be flooded with irrelevant or inappropriate messages. You can spam a newsgroup with as little as one well- (or ill-) planned message (e.g. asking "What do you think of abortion?" on soc.women). This is often done with cross-posting (e.g. any message which is crossposted to alt.rush-limbaugh and alt.politics.homosexuality will almost inevitably spam both groups). The second definition has become much more prevalent as the Internet has opened up to non-techies, and to many Usenetters it is probably now (1995) primary. . (I happened to look at the copy at; as far as I am aware, the original is somewhere at MIT. Now here's quality scholarship for you! :-) I actually first heard the term used to describe intentionally flooding someone's mailbox with nuisance email (a sense which is clearly related to those given above). Further, it was clear that this sense always implied the activity was done as a form of vigilante justice. Oh, and if the etymology is a little unclear to non-Python fans: there is a skit in one of the Monty Python episodes where a couple in a restaurant, attempting to discuss their order, are repeatedly interrupted and overwhelmed by a chorus of Vikings singing "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam! Wonderful Spam, Lovely Spam!...". -------- David Harnick-Shapiro Information and Computer Science david[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] University of California, Irvine