People's names (was Re: sqlite3 error)

Lawrence D'Oliveiro ldo at geek-central.gen.new_zealand
Sun Oct 8 00:14:27 CEST 2006

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.

> 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

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?

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