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> Is there a good reason why this couldn't be added to standard Lua patterns?

I don't know how to do it in a *simple* way. Notice that, unlike most other 
pattern-matching implementations, Lua does not use FSA; on the other hand, 
the whole implementation has less than 400 lines (versus > 2000 for typical 
FSA implementations). Also, the pattern-matching in Lua has some features 
that can't be done (I guess) with FSA (such as %b and .-). So, I still 
think the best solution is to keep Lua with a standard small implementation 
for pattern-matching, and to add a new library with a full 
regular-expression implementation. Unless, of course, someone finds a good
way to implement alternation into the current (recursive) style. 

-- Roberto