Another spam report

Glanced over my spam mailbox last weekend in preparation for deleting it and running a backup, and came across some entertaining stuff, some intentionally so and some not.

I've been amused to see spammers start to adopt the trick of including actual content in the spam, often jokes or quotations. In some cases, the jokes are even funny, so in a sense some spammers have become publishers of real content who support their publishing efforts with advertising. I'm not defending spammers; I still didn't ask to receive those emails, and mostly there's a lot of advertising for very little content. But if I have to choose between spam without interesting content and spam with interesting content, I'll take the latter.

Here are my three favorite intentionally funny bits from recent spam:

Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement: bananosecond


Two men went into a diner and sat down at the counter. They ordered two sodas, took sandwiches out of their packs and started to eat them. The owner saw what was going on and approached the men. "You can't eat your own sandwiches in here," he complained. The two men stopped, looked at each other, and then swapped their sandwiches.


It was a fine cow, as cows go, but, like so many cows, it lacked sustained dramatic interest. P.G. Wodehouse

More often, the humor in spam is unintentional. Like this subject line:

today is your lucy day

No doubt tomorrow is my linus day, and so on.

Some spam subject lines are just a little surreal:

  • Your kids will love the Hovercraft
  • Finally! Translate Your Dog's Woofs Into Words
  • Get ominous savings on pres-cription's ...
  • warning : your neurological check up ends on the 23th

I'm particularly bemused by that last one. What did they intend it to mean?

And then there's the found poetry that can result from sorting the mailbox alphabetically and looking at consecutive subject lines:

Real man looking for a real man

Real man looking for a real woman

Real Relationships : Do you need a companion

Real Swiss watches online

You Can Be a Cop!

You Can Be A Doctor

You can be a police officer!

You can be smart!

Fix your situation

Fix your situation

Fix your situation

Fix your situation

Fix yourself, First.

One common subject line is "I always knew id be able to odrer olnine one day" (or various other spelling variants on that phrase)—I always envision some wild-eyed teens in the '50s sitting around in a diner parking lot talking to each other about their dreams for the future, and one of them says, "Hey, you know what? One day we'll be able to order online." And the others look at him and say, "What do you mean, 'online'?" And he says, "I dunno, but I'm pretty sure we'll be able to do it one day."

I have a vague notion that the recurring themes in spam subject lines in a given period may in some way reflect the zeitgeist. I've been surprised lately to see the huge percentage of spam subject lines that have to do with stopping pain, often with stopping various relatives' pain. I don't have any examples handy, but things like "Your son doesn't have to be in pain anymore!" I hadn't realized that chronic pain was such an issue, but presumably it is. (And that's not even taking into account the vast array of drugs advertised, some of which are presumably for pain of various sorts, but I don't know what most of them do.) The other biggest themes lately in the spam I see have been Rolex (and other watch) replicas (I had no idea they were in such demand; the idea of wearing a Rolex doesn't appeal to me in the slightest, and a fake Rolex even less so); sex of course (but especially "cheating housewives"); getting a diploma without going to college; defeating traffic cameras; stock tips; green cards; cheap software; and Nigerian 419 scams.

. . . I just noticed that three years ago I posted an entry complaining that I was suddenly getting about a dozen spams a day. And a year ago I was getting 300 to 400 a day. Ah for the good old days. These days it's about 600 a day.

2 Responses to “Another spam report”

  1. Twig

    I have a vague notion that the recurring themes in spam subject lines in a given period may in some way reflect the zeitgeist.

    I’ve thought that, too.

    Slightly more abstract is words in crossword puzzles. Don’t know if you do them enough to have noticed, but certain words will be found in nearly every puzzle for several months. They slowly cycle, rather like some forms of poetry. (Is it the villanelle that rotates lines? Could one write a villanelle using the spam headlines or crossword words that were currently popular? Oh, someone other than myself will have to rise to that challenge).

  2. David D. Levine

    Recurring themes in spam subject lines could also simply reflect the current campaigns by a limited number of the most prolific spammers — a catalogue of what some spammers think is most likely to get people to open the message, rather than a catalogue of what people are actually looking for.

    The other theme in spam subject lines I’ve noted for the last several months consists of exactly four words each from what appears to be some piece of Russian literature. Here are three samples I found in my spam folder just now:

    that you’re having faint-hearted
    explain to him how
    The fiction writer Petrakov-Sukhovey,

    I sometimes entertain notions of attempting to fit these together and read the original story… but then, I’ve never liked Russian literature.

    Happy new year!


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