A column I wrote not long ago didn’t get to the editor at the usual time, and it turned out my e-mail had been filtered out by his spam filter or server or somedamnthing because I used the word “Viagra” in my copy. His software figured that anything that mentions a drug that prolongs a man’s erection is unlikely to be welcome in the e-mail box of upstanding folk like him, so that message must be spam—unsolicited, intrusive and presumably unwelcome e-mail. I’ve read that up to 80 percent of all e-mail is spam. Eighty percent of my snail mail is unsolicited, too. That’s why we keep a wastebasket near the mail slot.

Spam is a pain, especially on PCs, which don’t work as well as Macs. I wasn’t getting more than a few a day until a month ago, and now I get offers for cheap prescription drugs and how to make a killing before the real estate bubble bursts, not to mention all the sure-fire ways to make thousands of dollars at home with my computer, none of which the e-mailers will actually tell me about without my credit card number.

I edit e-mail newsletters and e-mail blasts, and I’m acutely aware of how I would react to the stuff I send out. I try at least to make it short and clear, so the recipient can decide right away whether it’s something worth reading. Short and clear is trickier than ever nowadays, because spam filters are on the lookout for short, clear words, like “free.”

I’ve heard of mainstream sites being blocked because of content about “breast” cancer or the “sex” life of crustaceans or the “penile” enhancements of the stars, but now things have gone too far.

It seems that some spam software filters out text that contains the word “chico.” I suppose Chico has a questionable reputation with some, what with Chico State having such a hard-drinking image, but filtering out any e-mail that even mentions the name of the place seems harsh.

Who could think Chico, Calif., was so dangerous that mere mention of its name in any context is evidence of some heinous transgression? Actually, nobody. It seems that “chico” is a common term of endearment in the world of man-boy love. That’s right.

So Chico is suspect for a new, silly reason, although the romantic usage really does upset some people. My boss said he knows a man from Spain who said Taste of Chico was the most disgusting thing he’d ever heard of. Imagine that.