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Mung is computer jargon for "to make repeated changes which individually may be reversible, yet which ultimately result in an unintentional, irreversible destruction of large portions of the original item." It was coined in 1958 at the Tech Model Railroad Club, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1960, the backronym "Mash Until No Good" was created to describe Mung, and a while after that it was revised to "Mung Until No Good"—making it one of the first recursive acronyms, and lived on as a recursive command in the editing language TECO.

Munging implies destruction -- to make large-scale and irrevocable changes to a file and to destroy it. Hence, in the early text-adventure game Zork, also known as Dungeon, the user could mung an object and thereby destroy it (making it impossible to finish the game if the object was an important item). A person who Dealing with vandalism a Wiki page would not be munging that page because the changes could be reversed.


Mung may have been created from the Lowland Scots word 'munge', meaning to imperfectly transform or, later, to munch up into a mess.

Alternatively, according to Charles Mackay's book, Lost Beauties of the English Language, published in July 18th 1874, there was an early American term, "mung news", which meant "false news". This was because, according to Mackay, mung is an obsolete past participle of mingle, and so mung news was news that was so mingled it was impossible to determine what was true and what was not. This may be the origin of Mung.

Derivative and alternate meanings

Address munging is the obfuscation of e-mail addresses, which originated in response to the spam epidemics of the 1990s. The goal is to prevent automated e-mail address harvesting by spammers through the alteration of email addresses in a fashion that mungs them from a computer's perspective but not a person's.

In some circles 'mung' is used as a word meaning foul material covering on a surface, i.e., "you've got some mung in between your teeth" or "you left your mung on my table." Military mechanics loosely use the term to refer to a combination of axle grease, mud, and dead things that were crushed under the equipment, and anything else that is generally left to be sprayed off by the lowest ranking shop worker. This concept has spawned cast-offs, implying that anything that is supremely disgusting can be said to be "mung".

Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, has referred to the substance that oozed from the mouth of the Jabba the Hutt puppet (as seen in the film Return of the Jedi) as mung.

In the April 1977 issue of Creem, Rick Johnson wrote: "...they're not any good, they're not so bad they're good, they're not anything. Their only hope of crawling out of the mung heap is..." in a scathing review of the all-girl rock band The Runaways. He also used the term "mung heap" to refer to Black Sabbath's songs in the October 1979 issue of Creem.

Mung is the common name given to the brown algae Pylaiella.

In Lord Dunsany's seminal fantasy work The Gods of Pegana, Mung is the Lord of all Deaths, one of the gods.

In the Comedy Central animated series South Park, episode 3x17: "World Wide Recorder Concert", mung is described as "the stuff that comes out when you push down on a pregnant woman's stomach."


External links

This article is based in part on one in the jargon file; the jargon file is in the public domain.

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