LAST CALL: SPAM has real beef with commercial e-mail namesake

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.

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