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Interesting set of responses. I missed most of it due to time zone.

If I may try to summarize the suggestion range that appeals to me:

I like (mostly for the previously stated reasons) -

a)  t[] = val  as  (table and string) append

b)  t = t .. value (because of similarity to string concat operater)

c)  a meta method for table append

d) t[] returning length (of both table and string)

e) 5.1 getn behaviour rather than 5.02 getn

re: strings
I recall from a language in a faraway OS and a faraway time a string
syntax that allowed

s[n,m] where 

n=start pos, m=length

both n & m could be -ve which meant from the end of the string

which gave


s[2,2] == 'bc'
s[2] =='b'
s[2,-1] == 'bcdefg'
s[-1] = 'g'
s[-3,-2] = 'ef'
n = start position

I used this a lot (many years ago) and found it convenient. 

(It was an OS called Pick for the curious)