A Directory of Spam-like Intrusions
A week or so back I wrote in my WSJ.com column about language and the Internet, Evoiding Pedestrian Ways (subscription only, I’m afraid) in which I explored some new words and how they catch on:
People have been coming up with new words for a long time. But the Internet may be shifting the balance, not just in terms of creating words to describe our tech-dominated lives, but in making these new words spread fast — and stick.
I particularly liked how
Words that originated online have started to define life offline, illustrating the shift in descriptive emphasis: Think “snail mail.” Or “face mail,” a pseudodictionary word that refers to “the daring act of talking to someone in person instead of either leaving a voice mail or sending an email.” While spam — a word purloined from British comedy troupe Monty Python to describe unwanted junk email — has now crossed back to describe other real world phenomena, such as unsolicited physical contact (“body spam“) and the blanketing of ads on telephone poles and other public areas (“street spam“).
But why stop there? Here are a few more spam-like, uninvited intrusions into our lives and my suggestions for what we might call them. Other suggestions, or existing words I haven’t come across, very welcome. Apologies if any of these copy or compete with existing terms:
Cabin Spam: Inflight announcements promoting duty-free goods that interrupt movies, sleep or emergency evacuation procedures;
Ear Spam: Automated telephone marketing;
Mat Spam: Junk mail that comes through your letterbox;
Hand Spam: Handouts proferred by folk on the street;
Eye Spam: DVD intros for other movies you can’t skip over;
Spoiler Spam: Movie ads that are too loud, and either too informative about the movie so they spoil it or else so misleading it seems the makers were watching a different movie altogether;
Screen Spam: Product placement in movies or TV shows.