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Matthew:

My question is about TANG, the space-program-induced instant drink mix from the '60s. Is TANG an acronym for something? Like I had always heard that SPAM stood for "shoulder pork and meats."

-- Mitch of Imperial Beach

Nothing's commoner than common knowledge, Mitch. Common as dirt. But much less useful. Tang just means tang. A catchy, easy-to-remember, good-morning-wakeup-eye-opener name for a breakfast product for the young homemaker of the atomic '50s. (Real orange juice? How…um…quaint!) General Foods sprinkled Tang on the marketplace in 1957. A few years later, when NASA was searching for items to make up their interplanetary menu, the drink mix was a natural-- and with none of those annoying R&D costs. Tang didn't go into space until 1964. General Foods immediately hopped on worldwide spacemania, using the epoxy of incessant advertising to permanently fuse "Astronauts!" and "Tang!" in our tiny consumer brains. If we chose to believe Tang was developed exclusively for NASA, well, General Foods wasn't going to argue with us.

If Spam was a true first-letter-only acronym, we'd know it today as SOPAH: shoulder of pork and ham. That ingredient-descriptive phrase is rumored to be the inspiration for the product name. Or it might have come from the meatwad's original name, Hormel's Spiced Ham. Whatever the case, "Spiced Ham" wasn't moving the goods off the shelf. So, the story goes, Mr. Hormel hosted a product-naming bash at his home and by the end of the evening had "Spam" a huge cleaning bill.

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