Some versions of ksh allow for back references. Back references allow a sub-pattern to be referred to by number. The number refers to the instance of the open parentheses (counting from the left) starting with 1. Within a pattern, back references are referred to by a backslash followed by the number just mentioned. Therefore, the following example will match any string that begins and ends with the same letter, such as “mom”, “dad”, or “dumb-founded”:
Here is the breakdown of the expression. The @ means to match exactly one pattern; the (?) says to match exactly one character. The * says to match zero or more characters, and the \1 says to go back and reference what was after the first parenthesis. Therefore, it matches ...