We've all become familiar with the term spam. It's become so commonplace that even people who never use computers are familiar with the term spam. That single word has become part of our every day vocabulary that we use in personal conversations.
But how does the word spam relate to email? There are two camps of thought on this matter. The classic version of the story stems from the classic Monty Python spam sketch where a couple enter a restaurant and are given a menu that has nothing but the tinned meat spam on it. In that sketch the word spam is repeated almost 200 times. The same word repeated over and over in a sketch led to people referring to hundreds of the same emails about the same topic being referred to as spam.
The second explanation came from a guy called Jim who told me the following story:
"Back in the BBS (Bulletin Board System) days with the NEW high-speed V32 2400-baud modems it would take a very long time to download a program or picture from your BBS. This was much like USENET is today you upload some thing and others can download it.
One such uploader advertised his posts as pictures of nude women. After a half hour download and putting all the pieces together the picture turned out to be a picture of a can of SPAM. Where are my nude ladies and an hour of my time? People replied to the messages and wrote SPAM. This way we knew not to D/L that picture. After USENET got going the term stuck meaning something false - do not download (or believe) this. The jump to UBE (Unsolicited Bulk Email) or UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email) being called SPAM was a natural evolution of the term."
Decide for yourself which origination theory best suits you. The principle is the same. The word spam is derived from the fact that the same useless information is sent to you over and over again under the pretence of it being useful.