Be warned: One must always, always use capital letters when
referring to SPAM the luncheon meat. As opposed to spam, the unsolicited
commercial e-mail (UCE), that is.
The edict came down from the Hormel company, and was reported last week
in The Wall Street Journal. Hormel posted a memo on its SPAM fan Web
site. The company's statement is not new, but apparently it came under
the spotlight yet again following a conference on commercial e-mail in
San Francisco called SpamCon.
"Use of the term 'SPAM' was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit
in which a group of Vikings sang a chorus of "SPAM, SPAM, SPAM ..." in
an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation," reads the
edifying document on the SPAM site.
"Hence, the analogy applied because UCE was drowning out normal
discourse on the Internet."
Hormel is concerned that pictures of its cunning little SPAM can cannot
be used in association with articles about UCE, and that the e-mail
variety be described in lower-case letters.
A variety of trademark precedent is also cited in the missive. "Other
examples of famous trademarks having a different slang meaning include
Mickey Mouse, to describe something as unsophisticated; Teflon, used to
describe President Reagan; and Cadillac, used to denote something as
being high quality."
The Journal reports that Hormel previously went to great lengths to
protect its precious lunch meat. In 1997, the company successfully
challenged Sanford "Spam-ford" Wallace, who promoted his e-mail business
by posing for pictures with cans of SPAM.