Spam from the Third Age

I’ve held off on posting funny spam subject lines lately, but I just had to comment on this pair. First up:

Mazrim Taim was one of those, raising an army and ravaging Saldaea before he was taken.

It’s a quote from Lord of Chaos, the 6th book in Robert Jordan’s fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. The next one is a bit less obvious:

If Lan was attempting jokes, however feeble and wrongheaded, he was changing.

I wasn’t sure about this one, since there must be other stories with characters named Lan, but Google Book Search found it in book 5, The Fires of Heaven.

I’ve seen lots of spam that used filler from The Wizard of Oz and other novels old enough to be in the public domain. Project Gutenberg and the like have been transcribing them, making free plain-text ebooks for years, making it easy to snag a couple of lines of actual English text.

In theory this should be harder to identify as filler than randomly-generated text. In practice, novelists—particularly those of 100 years ago—don’t use the same language patterns as present-day casual or business email writers, so I’m not sure it actually accomplishes anything. Maybe that’s why some of them use clips from UNIX software manuals and programming guides instead.

Since the quotes don’t turn up anywhere else, I suppose this means one of three things:

  • Someone has transcribed parts of The Wheel of Time, and spambots have slurped up the transcription.
  • Spammers are somehow extracting text from Google Books
  • Spammers are manually going through books and scanning/transcribing them just to collect filler text.

Update: Found one in the spamtraps at work using a quote from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which at least showed up in a couple of pages with excepts.

And if the Dursleys were unhappy to have him back for the holidays, it was nothing to how Harry felt.

Whatever source they’re using, they’re definitely pulling stuff from multiple contemporary novels.

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