I began developing the tool that would become “swaks” on December 19, 2001. The initial version was mostly just an adapted version of the sendpage my coworker Jamie Hill had written for simple SNPP transactions. At that time the tool was called “vmail”, which meant something like visual- or visualize-mail.
On November 11, 2003, I posted a link to vmail on the exim-users mailing list. I received lots of constructive responses, including one note that the name vmail was very generic, and also in use by another project (I wish I could remember who noted that, but I can’t find it in the mailing list archives).
I don’t remember much about picking the name swaks, but it fit my main criteria, which were that the name should be distinct and should be pronounceable. I’ve never been very happy with the acronym expansion “SWiss Army Knife Smtp” for several reasons, the most important of which is that it really ought to be “SWiss Army SMTP”, but “swas” isn’t nearly as distinctive in the dialect of English I speak natively.
So, here I am with the name swaks, which I’m mostly happy with. However, while the name swaks is unique for a software package, there are other, non-software uses that I wassn’t aware of before I chose the name:
“Sealed With A Kiss”
I’m not 100% sure what the original version of “SWAK” in this context was. Perhaps written on the back of an envelope containing a love note? The usage that pops up occasionally on the internet means something like “sent with love” or just “with love”.
bad / poor / ill (Afrikaans)
I just recently learned this one (hence this blog post). This popped up in the headline “SA se bes en swaks gekledes in 2011”, which native Afrikaans speakers translated as “SA’s best and worst dressed list”. Google Translate doesn’t like the phrase “swaks gekledes”, but after poking a bit I got it to translate “swak” as “poor” and “swak geklede” as “ill-dressed”.
I’ve put a much shorter and slightly more formal version of this post in the docs for the next release. I’ll add new meanings as I find them. If you know of others, please send them in and I’ll post them.