Every now and then, I feel the need to add some levity to my weekly column. Since I had part of the day off Monday, I decided to clean out my SPAM folder in my email.

I had 538 messages caught up by the GMAIL spam filter. What is interesting, there were a handful of emails that really weren’t spam. This always makes me feel bad, because I am typically quick to respond to emails.

As I read down through some of the spam emails, I became increasingly amused at the various subject lines and thought “I should write a column.”

To fully develop a story on spam, it only seems appropriate to begin with a brief history lesson. A quick Google search (something at which our students are quite adept) gets us to Wikipedia. Wikipedia, although not a scholarly resource, gets us some quick thoughts about Spamming; the use of electronic messaging to send an unsolicited message (spam).

Most in my generation will recall the canned meat from the SPAM brand. Introduced in 1937, it gained popularity during WWII. Evidently it was widely used in British market during the 1960s and ultimately led to a SPAM sketch performed by Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

In the sketch, the waiter is naming off the menu items and all of them included spam. So began the etymology of the word spam to reference items designed to flood or post excessively to an account.

Ultimately, the New Oxford Dictionary added this definition; (noun) irrelevant or unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, typically to a large number of users, for the purpose of advertising, phishing, spreading malware, etc. The New Oxford also credits the Monty Python skit for the origin.

The Internet was not the first place that spamming occurred. Western Union was supposedly spammed in 1864 when a mass telegram about a dentistry shop was sent to British politicians. The more modern version of spam was first noted in 1978. It is estimated that 80-85% of all email is spam. Cisco did a study in 2011 and determined that 13.7% of all spam originated in India, followed by Russia, Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia and China. The U.S. was eighth with 3.2%.

Although our spam filter doesn’t always work, I am thankful that I only have to review the spam folder periodically and not sort through them daily.

It seems as if I could retire early and travel the world if I would only open the great deals I receive in spam. The next time someone needs $7,000,000 to help their Aunt Sally in Saudi Arabia, I think I will just forward them all of the bargains from my spam folder.

On a serious note, I do realize many others are in the same situation when it comes to spam email. I hope that when you receive emails from central office, or your child’s principal or teacher, that it is relevant and timely, so that you do not consider it spam.

Enjoy your next can of SPAM and go Indians!

By Dr. Jim Cummins

(Dr. Jim Cummins is superintendent of the Seneca R-7 School District. He can be reached at jcummins@senecar7.com.)


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