People's names (was Re: sqlite3 error)

Steve Holden steve at
Sun Oct 8 12:03:14 CEST 2006

Lawrence D'Oliveiro wrote:
> In message <mailman.912.1159494600.10491.python-list at>, Steve
> Holden wrote:
>>John Machin wrote:
>>[lots of explanation about peculiarities of people's names]
>>While I don't dispute any of this erudite display of esoteric
>>nomenclature wisdom the fact remains that many (predominantly Western)
>>databases do tend to use first and last name (in America often with the
>>addition of a one- or two-character "middle initial" field).
> Just because most Western designers of databases do it wrong doesn't mean
> that a) you should do it wrong, or b) they will continue to do it wrong
> into the future, as increasing numbers of those designers come from Asian
> and other non-Western backgrounds.
I quite agree: my comment was really intended to highlight the fact that 
most Western database designers (myself included) do tend to be quite 
locale-centric. I haven't any experience with Eastern design, so can't 
say whether the same holds true.
>>So, having distilled your knowledge to its essence could you please give
>>me some prescriptive advice about what I *should* do? :-)
> Has anyone come up with a proper universal table design for storing people's
> names?
> Certainly "first name" and "last name" are the wrong column names to use. I
> think "family name" and "given names" would be a good start. For the
> Icelanders, Somalians and the Muslims, their father's name goes in
> the "family name" field, which makes sense because all their siblings (of
> the same sex, at least) would have the same value in this field.
> I wonder if we need another "middle" field for holding the "bin/binte" part
> (could also hold, e.g. "Van" for those names that use this).
> There would also need to be a flag field to indicate the canonical ordering
> for writing out the full name: e.g. family-name-first, given-names-first.
> Do we need something else for the Vietnamese case?

You'd think some standards body would have worked on this, wouldn't you. 
I couldn't think of a Google search string that would lead to such 
information, though. Maybe other, more determined, readers can do better.

Steve Holden       +44 150 684 7255  +1 800 494 3119
Holden Web LLC/Ltd
Skype: holdenweb
Recent Ramblings

More information about the Python-list mailing list