More than often, I will encounter the jargon "Mung"

Refer to Mung (computer term) in wiki,

In 1960 the backronym "Mash Until No Good" was created to describe Mung, and a while after it was revised to "Mung Until No Good", making it one of the first recursive acronyms.[citation needed] It lived on as a recursive command in the editing language TECO.[3]

The phrase "Mash Until No Good", does it mean "Crash it until only no good things left"?

1 Answer 1


Be wary of Wikipedia etymologies, especially those tagged "[citation needed]." Wikipedia is edited by a crowd of folks and is thus prone to folk etymology, i.e, various "just-so" stories of word origins. Backronyms are a particular kind of folk etymology, an attempt to explain the origin of a word by linking its spelling to a phrase.

(As an aside and as commentary on the accuracy of the Wikipedia entry, MUNG is not a recursive command in the text editor TECO. It was a command in the CCL (for Concise Command Language), the command line interpreter that served as the user interface for DEC computers, starting with the PDP-10. The MUNG command ran TECO on a TECO macro, a file of TECO commands. TECO command sequences were notoriously obscure and powerful, so it was easy to write hard-to-understand TECO macros that mangled the texts they were applied to, turning them into mung.)

Mung has a history that predates by years the Wikipedia date of the 1960 for the backronym "Mung Until No Good." The Historical Dictionary of American Slang has a reference from 1948 from Lucifer by J H Burns:

Mung. That was the Academy's name for the food they ate.

And from John E Quirks' 1962 novel No Red Ribbons referring to the time of World War II

A: I gather her cup failed of running over.
B: Her cup was full of mung, if that's what you mean

So mung means dreck, a mess of something distasteful, and its verbified usage means to make a mess of something. The ADHS can cite this latter usage from 1968.

Mash means to pound ingredients into a pulpy substance from which one cannot discern the original constituents, so "Mash until no good" means to crush together things until the result is an undesirable mess. This is a sufficient definition of the word mung, but not necessarily an accurate etymology.

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