Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Buzzword In Progress: "Bacn"?

Perhaps I'm behind the times, but apparently "bacn"--the misspelling is intentional--has become a popular term of art for the automatically generated notifications from legimate, non-spam sites. BuzzFeed offers this concise definition:

Bacn describes the things you signed up for but that still feel like clutter in your inbox: Email lists, Facebook notifications, Google alerts.

The earliest citation I can find is only three days ago, but says this word is "Already being widely used." (Don't I feel old!)

I get the idea, but I don't approve of the name. Why?

* Bacon is good. Why wouldn't you want bacon?

* Cutesy vowel-deprived spellings (Flickr, Zoomr, Socializr) are so 2004.

The description that comes to mind when I think about all these computer-generated e-mails--the note from Verizon that my account statement is ready, the LinkedIn update informing me of a new business contact, the newsletter from the local bookstore--is "dryer lint." It's an unavoidable byproduct that you have to clean up, but which occasionally hides a pleasant surprise (in the dryer, money; in your inbox, a great sale or a long-lost friend's resurfacing).

What term would you use to describe this category of not-quite-junk, not-quite-urgent e-mail?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 21, 2007; 3:42 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: No Sneak Previews Of My Reviews
Next: High-Definition Disc Disarray (Cont'd.)


Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm -- Bacon

Out of all the phrases I use to describe unwanted emails from companies I've done business with and/or bad jokes/chains from friends /relatives, Flotsam and Jetsam is probably the only one printable in the Post. Spam is fairly easy to accurately filter out that stuff is not.

Posted by: Norm | August 21, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Does the US have a code of conduct for spam?

Just this afternoon I got an email from (basically the Mormon's genealogy business) offering me gardening books, and the promise that I would get more such offers over the next 3 weeks.

Now they do have a separate opt-in for partner emails (which I have never opted in for) but they seem to have decided that although their company "does not sell, rent or otherwise distribute the personal information you provide us to third party advertisers" they can act as spam-agents with alacrity by mailing on their behalf.

The only way to stop the spam part of their output is to turn it off altogether, which means that I would no longer get the useful information about the product I bought.

It may not be bacn, but it's certainly not kosher...

Posted by: Mike | August 21, 2007 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I think Bacn is fine; Bacos would be better. It's not spam - nobody actually LIKES spam; but Bacos are a little more likeable - they're still a far cry from bacon or ham (which in the spam metaphor signify emails you'd want) but Bacos are sometimes ok to have on a salad when there's no bacon or ham to be had. Whereas spam should never be consumed, on a salad or otherwise.

Posted by: Dave | August 21, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The term was actually coined just this past weekend at PodCamp Pittsburgh 2. There's a video of the two guys who came up with the term at explaining why they feel it's a problem.

I know there's been some disagreement about whether it's a good term or not, but there seems to be general agreement that it is in fact a problem, and it seems to me to be a concise way of referring to non-priority e-mail that I intend to read at some point.

I remember spam sounding goofy at first, too.

Posted by: Erik Schark | August 21, 2007 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: GJHead | August 21, 2007 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, have to say I like bacon (the food) so think its a bad term for unwanted but approved e-mail.

Dryer lint is pretty good. I like lunchmeat, bologna, MRE and liver/livr as the term for it.

Posted by: David | August 21, 2007 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Rob: Like spam, bacon is trayf.
Not good.

Posted by: Unindicted Co-conspirator | August 22, 2007 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Dave> It's not spam - nobody actually LIKES spam

I like spam. Slice it and fry it a little crispy in olive oil and yum. And it's well known that spam is quite popular in Hawaii--there it can be found in many forms including even spam maki (rice and nori rolls).

As for email, I use a unique email address with each online service I opt in for. Whenever it becomes clear they've given it away to bulk emailers (for example, when I started getting porn spam at the address I gave only to I terminate the address.

What interests me about this is that when this happens, the email turns from bacn, or whatever you want to call it, to spam, based not on the content of the message, but on the person who sent it. It's the depersonalizing effect of having one's email address sold to some anonymous bulk emailer that makes it intolerable, and I think it's their disregard for the humanity of each recipient that makes spammers so repugnant. Receiving spam switches on some latent, collective sense of violation at having our individuality annulled: they don't care who we are--we're numbers to them, and they treat us like corpses with credit cards rather than real people. It's offensive.

On a more positive note, I think I'll go to Giant tomorrow and get a can of real spam. Hormel may be another faceless corporation, but they make a good product, and they don't try to cram it down my throat. Therefore I shall reward them, and my gustatory senses will be pleased in the process.

Posted by: antibozo | August 22, 2007 1:24 AM | Report abuse

I just call it "junkmail" and my bayesian filter is surprisingly good at separating it out from the emails I want to see immediately and the emails I don't care if I never see.

Posted by: Doh | August 22, 2007 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Ready for the answer on this one guys? Ah, seems so simple and yet elegant in so many ways.


Benefits: its EZ! rhymes with email, has the connotation of B-Movies, B-list, etc.

It came to me in that special room of reflection visited after 2 cups of coffee this morning. You know, the place where magazines are read and truth is revealed, although usually on Sundays.

Hey, do I get the trademark? Or maybe a book deal?

Posted by: Rich Reiss | August 22, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

B-mail works for me.

But I won't buy your book.

Posted by: whiteline | August 22, 2007 8:08 AM | Report abuse

It just amazes me that some one at the washington post wrote about the term that we have come to love, Bacn.

For those of you that are anoyed by it...Lighten up.

Posted by: | August 22, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Why not hot dog? It seems perfect to me:

* It is a type of processed meat (like SPAM)
* Most hot dogs are not very good, though not as bad as SPAM
* There are some hot dogs that are actually pretty good

Bacn is a horrible way of describing it--especially with the missing vowel. Bacon should be the email that is a treat. There is nothing more irritating than words that are intentionally misspelled or contracted weirdly. They make me hate the Internet.

Posted by: Phil | August 22, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Another option is to go with one of the other menu ingredients mentioned in the Monty Python spam sketch.

- Spam, egg, sausage, and spam
- Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam, and spam
- Lobster thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce garnished with truffle paté, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam

I could go with baked beans. Bloody Vikings...

Posted by: antibozo | August 22, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Dang, someone beat me to the trayf comment.

No one wants to eat bacon, dude, totally not kosher.

Posted by: DCer | August 22, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

The spam song made me think it should be called "parsley" - unwanted garnish.

Posted by: Mike | August 23, 2007 6:16 AM | Report abuse

Parsley garnish is good for freshening the mouth after the meal.

Posted by: antibozo | August 23, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

You have to specify what kind of parsley you're talking about. Italian flat-leaf parsley is great, but the curly kind is useless.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | August 23, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Rob, I think you already have the perfect name, LINT.

Posted by: kpemc | August 26, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Parsely is a good generic term, because there might be some good flat-leaf in there amongst all the curly stuff.

Posted by: Mike | August 27, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company