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Two short stories on how spam got its name

Most people who use the Internet know that the term 'spam' denotes unwanted commercial solicitations. But why in the world are they named after a canned meat product?

The Random House Webster's Computer & Internet Dictionary offers two possible explanations. One goes like this: The term comes from the famed Monty Python skit in which actors sing, over and over and very loudly, 'Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam.'

As with the Python troupe's song, the theory goes, 'spam' is 'an endless repetition of worthless text.'

The other explanation, from the computer group lab at the University of Southern California, is that the messages share three characteristics with the oft-mocked product:

1. Nobody wants it.

2. No one ever eats, or uses, it.

3. 'Sometimes it is actually tasty, like the 1 percent of junk mail that is really useful to some people.'