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The term “munge” is most commonly used in IT to refer to alterations or changes to a file or data structure. Common definitions describe “munge” as an action that is “potentially destructive or irrevocable.” Other colloquial descriptions of mungeing involve the mashing or imprecise combination of different data sets, as in the acronym MUNG for “mash until no good.”
Prior to its use in IT, the term “munge” came from the English lexicon where it referred to different types of chewing or mumbling. As it became used in the IT world to describe user actions, it started to be associated with the process of blending, mashing or otherwise messing around with data. It is important to note that, as in the above definition, “munge” actions are “potentially” destructive. That means that mungeing will not necessarily destroy something or cause it to malfunction, but those actions have the potential to cause these types of problems. Some commonly used examples involve changes to HTML tags, alteration of punctuation in text, or the complete rewriting or alternative parsing of a function, routine or program.
Another example is a “munged” password. Here, programs use character substitution to create a strong password. This could be a good example of mungeing, because the alterations of the texts are randomized. In the case of the password, this probably does not present any challenges other than the password being extremely difficult to hack. But in application to any existing data structure, collection, routine or program, there is the potential that this kind of randomized change could destroy the entire data set or make it useless.