When will the US economy rebound from the collapse of the tech bubble in 2001? For the many Americans anxious about their jobs or their future prospects, the fact that the economy is already recovering from recession is cold comfort①. Productivity has soared, but the number of new jobs has not, at least not yet, and politicians fret about the consequences of a 'jobless recovery'. The good news is that hiring is up; the bad news is that it's restaurants, providers of ill-paid service sector jobs, not Silicon Valley tech firms, that are doing the hiring.
Clay Bennett's cartoon for the ChristianScienceMonitor shows us a middle-class American family seated for a big meal. In the foreground is a cornucopia (a symbol of abundance that is a common decorative motif at Thanksgiving) labeled 'economy'. The US economy is indeed producing abundantly, but who is benefiting? The main course, in Bennett's view, should be jobs, not dividends, but when the father lifts the cover of the serving dish②, it is a tin of Spam that the baffled family behold.
Spam (the name is a registered trademark) is a commercial meat product that entered the market in 1937, late in the Great Depression. Ready-to-eat chopped SPiced hAM ('SPAM') was pressed into a firm loaf and canned. The product was cheap and, at a time when cash was tight, popular. Soldiers ate a lot of it in World War II. After the war, Americans shipped tons of it to impoverished Europeans as relief supplies.
Today Spam is still manufactured, but its fans are mostly children. Among adults it is widely associated with poverty, though harried mothers appreciate its convenience as emergency lunch fare for kids.
Interestingly, the word 'spam' (no cap③) is also used nowadays to mean unsolicited commercial e-mail. The Monty Python Show, a TV comedy series with tens of millions of viewers during the 1970s and 1980s, frequently featured a group of Vikings who at social gatherings would sing 'Spam!' in answer to every question. Eventually all other conversation ceased; hence the use of 'spam' for unwanted e-mail that buries e-mail of significance. Why 'Spam'? Monty Python comedians were geniuses of the absurd who took a lot of material from the world of British schools after World War II; Spam would have been tediously familiar to British viewers of a certain age.
有意思的是，spam(s小写)一词在当今时代还用来指那些不请自来的广告性电子邮件。在七十和八十年代拥有数千万热心观众的英国幽默电视连续剧Monty Python Show常常以一拨儿北欧海盗为主角，在公共集会中，他们对每一个问题都用吟唱“Spam”来做回答以压制别人，最后，所有的谈话都停止了，因此人们就用spam来指那些把有用信息淹没的垃圾邮件。但为什么要唱Spam呢？Monty Python的喜剧演员们是一群搞笑天才，他们从二战后英国校园生活中汲取了大量素材，对于一定年龄的英国观众来说，Spam肯定是熟悉得不能再熟悉了。