Names that break databases


I have an Americanized Dutch name starting with Van. Two words, one name. Oftentimes it takes people two times to find me in their databases, once with a space and once without, depending on how it was entered.

Oh, the arguments I’ve had about that…


Of course, half of that applies to any foreigner living in Japan. I didn’t use my middle name as part of my legal name, and that occasionally resulted in hassles because my legal name in Japan was not the same as the name on my passport.

Not computer issues, but Chinese people in America often have similar problems. In the process of being transliterated from hanzi to English, a two-character name (one character each for given and family names) has (up to, generally less) 16 different tone combinations that would render it distinguishable when spoken, and many more character combinations that would distinguish it when written, which are lost. The result is, at a major company, when looking up a new coworker in the company directory, who doesn’t have a very common name at all, there were 86 people in the company with names that, in English, were identical to hers.


I haven’t come across this precise issue, but I have had no end of trouble with systems where some idiot decided that email addresses (domain name and all) cannot have dash ("-") characters in them. Even saw this just recently with a major credit card company whose systems just silently strip every dash out of the email address field, leaving a completely incorrect address behind.

And email addresses at least have a standard. The hard-coded assumptions about names can be even worse.


I learned that lesson really early on. Now that things are supposed to standardize with the zairyu card system and “My Number” I expect Ill end up with more trouble than less.

Heck even Japanese people in Japan have name collision problems. In any big company you are likely to have dozens of Suzuki Hanako/Ichiros and it can become a total guessing game which one to send email to.


Yes, we have 2 surnames, first the first from the father then the second is the first from the mother. When you refer to somebody you normally use the first one, but your legal name in documents has both

Many applications dont realize that so when you write a full name they decide the first surname is the middle name and the second surname is the surname.So instead of, say, Pedro Garcia López being parsed as “call him Mr Garcia” it becomes Mr López, or gets recorded as Lopez, Pedro García , or …

Not sure what happens with people with more than one name, like Juan Maria García Lopez. Or … well there is really no limit on the number of names you can have; the current King of Spain was baptized as Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Grecia, although nobody ever really called him that.


I cannot believe nobody posted this:


(and not related to anything but boy did I’m getting very bad at using the tilde :P)


My takeaway from this is I really should have named the kid Null.


I can’t imagine a bug that serious remaining unfixed for very long.



Am I going crazy, or does Excel still not use a 64 bit address space? I do Helldesk work, and whenever people call in saying “Excel is too slow” it always seems to end up being that Excel is using 4GiB of the 8 or even 16GiB of RAM available, but the recalculations are still taking forever, like it hit the 4GiB memory cap from the days of WinXP.


Having a very long name is particularly problematic, there’s no consistency between systems, so your name will tend to get truncated arbitrarily, at a different location every time, then will fail to match from system-to-system.

I suspect that the staff at Ellis Island did my family a favor by truncating and Americanizing our last name when my great-grandparents first arrived.


When we’ve sorted Names out, can we start on Address and phone number formats? I have a very boring name so haven’t run in to this personally, although one Ecommerce Merchant would only deliver stuff to me as Mr DO NOT USE Jones.


When I was in library school ages ago, we thought the hardest entity to search was the store known as “The Limited”


I’m not a SQL programmer, but I still don’t understand why they made the boneheaded decision to make the data be executable.


Heh. Would not surprise me. Everyone in the world uses it already, and there is no reasonable competitor. Why improve? That just costs money.


Worse than the band The The?


Blank is beautiful!


Except it means the machines have won.

Do computers exist to make our lives better, or do we have to change our lives to accommodate the computers?

Of course the counter argument is the old “what’s in a name?”


The original BBC article contains a link to the classic and authoritative “Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names


It didn’t help that my middle name is probably about as difficult as it gets to transliterate into kana, and there’s absolutely no way to to it that bears even the faintest resemblance to the original pronunciation.