... and is in no way related to "metacharacters as defined by the w3c". If you are having a particular problem please elaborate.As pointed out by rain forest puppy
All metacharacters as defined by the w3c should be escaped for security reasons. Whether it be an sql query or shell command. Even if you don't think a particular metacharacter could be used for sql injection techniques, someone will come along and prove you wrong eventually. Mysql will properly interpret all w3c metacharacters when escaped. I suspect the mysql folks understood the need for it too.
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