Pucker Up!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d do a two-part article on an acronym near and dear to our hearts…

S.W.A.K.

We’ve all heard the acronym SWAK before. But what does it mean? If you work for Fed Ex, you might say, “Scan, Weigh, and Key.” If you’re the outdoorsy type, you might say, “Swedish Army Knife.” But for most of us, SWAK means, “Sealed With A Kiss.” The phrase evokes immediate images of lips and letters, lovers and lipstick. But can you really seal a letter with a kiss? What is a ‘seal’ anyway?

A seal is physical evidence of authenticity. Historically, seals were made of poured wax, which was then embossed with a mark or symbol. Back before OfficeMax started selling self-adhesive envelopes, wax seals were used to seal letters. Their use assured recipients that the contents of the letter were legitimate — that the words within had neither been tampered with, nor seen by prying eyes.

Legal contracts are often signed ‘under seal,’ meaning that the signer has affixed his, her, or its (in the case of corporations) seal next to the signer’s signature. Historically, this practice meant that the contract was less vulnerable to legal attack. Seals were used as presumptive evidence that certain contractual formalities had been met. Today, statutory reform has largely done away with the need for seals for such purposes in many jurisdictions, but one legal consequence may remain. In some jurisdictions, signing a contract under seal may lengthen a contract’s period of enforceability. For example, an ordinary contract may only have a three-year statute of limitations, whereas a contract signed under seal might have a twelve-year statute of limitations. If you are the one seeking to enforce, the seal can be a good thing.

So how exactly do you seal a contract or letter?

Yesteryear’s wax seals may look weighty and impressive, but they are highly impractical. Open flames and signet rings are tools of the past. Today’s seals are often made with paper embossers (hole-punch type devices that are custom-made), inked stampers, gold foil stickers, and — the easiest method — by simply adding the word “SEAL” to a signature line.

As for sealing modern-day letters, the aforementioned self-adhesive envelopes should be the choice for any professional correspondence. But for all those love letters? I say pucker up and experiment. From Lipstick Queen’s Sinner Red to MAC’s Frost Angel, your lipstick choices are endless…

Have you ever sent a letter sealed with a kiss? If so, I want to hear about it! Tell me about your love letters, your favorite shade of lipstick, or any other fun ways you’ve signed your name to things.