Modifying existing strings via substitution is a common practice in programing. To this end, functions like
gsub provide a method to accomplish this. Below is an example where “hey” is replaced with “ho” transforming a line from the Ramones into Santa Claus leaving on Christmas Eve.
##  "ho ho, let's go!"
gsub only supports one string of matching with one string of replacement. What this means is while you can match on multiple conditions, you can only provide one condition of replacement. Below we construct a regular expression which matches on “hey” or “ho” and replaces any such matches with “yo”.
##  "yo yo, let's go!"
If you wanted to replace “hey” with “get” and “ho” with “ready” you would need two steps.
##  "get ready, let's go!"
This sequential process however can result in undesired changes. If we want to swap where “hey” and “ho” are, we can see the process breaks down. Because each change happens in order, “hey” becomes “ho” and then every “ho” becomes “hey”, undoing the first step.
##  "hey hey, let's go!"
This is where the idea of
mgsub comes in.
mgsub is a safe, simultaneous string substitution function. We pass in a patterns to match as well as replacements and the replacements are applied simultaneously.
##  "ho hey, let's go!"
mgsub fully supports regular expressions as matching criteria as well as backreferences in the replacement. Note how the matching criteria ignores “dopachloride” for replacement but matches both “Dopazamine” and “dopastriamine” (all fake chemicals despite what the replace string claims!).
##  "Metazamine is not the same as dopachloride or Metastriamine, yet is still real."
Furthermore, you can pass through any options from the
gsub family. In the example below you can see fixed string matching
##  "All my life I chased balloons and dolphins - not success!"
This is actually the most compelling feature of
mgsub. Several packages implement a similar type function (also named
mgsub) which do not employ safe substitution -
textclean. Here is a quick overview of what is meant by safety: