Name that Table’s Column

9 11 2012

November 9, 2012

I have not had a lot of time to browse through forums lately, but I noticed an interesting thread in the comp.databases.oracle.server Usenet group.  The OP in the thread was curious why quotes (double quotes) were required around a particular column when referenced in a SQL statement, because specifying quotes around the column name is apparently a little challenging in the PHP scripting language.

I thought about this issue a bit, wondering “how did that happen” and then thought about the benefits of this approach.  In theory, a sophisticated programmer could build a 16 column table using a single four character column name (with different letters capitalized).  Such an approach is sure to evoke a couple of choice four letter words!

I thought that I would throw together a quick example table:

CREATE TABLE T1(
  My_Data NUMBER,
  "My_Data" NUMBER,
  "my_data" NUMBER,
  "MY_DATA" NUMBER);

That almost worked:

SQL> CREATE TABLE T1(
  2    My_Data NUMBER,
  3    "My_Data" NUMBER,
  4    "my_data" NUMBER,
  5    "MY_DATA" NUMBER);
  "MY_DATA" NUMBER)
  *
ERROR at line 5:
ORA-00957: duplicate column name

Columns 1 and 4 have the same name.  Let’s fix that problem and try again:

CREATE TABLE T1(
  My_Data NUMBER,
  "My_Data" NUMBER,
  "my_data" NUMBER,
  "MY_DATa" NUMBER);

Table created.

That worked, now we have a table with four columns, where all of the column names are the same.  Notice that the first column name was not wrapped in quotes.

Let’s insert a row into the table:

INSERT INTO T1 VALUES(
  1,
  2,
  3,
  4);

1 row created.

Let’s see what happens when we query the table:

SELECT
  *
FROM
  T1
WHERE
  MY_DATA=1;

   MY_DATA    My_Data    my_data    MY_DATa
---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
         1          2          3          4

Notice that a row was returned, even though the upper/lower case of the column in the WHERE clause did not match the first column name when the T1 table was created (when the table was created, for the first column, the column name was created as if were specified in all uppercase letters).

Let’s see if a row is returned if we try the following (notice that the attempt at querying with the fourth column based on matching that column’s capitalization in the WHERE clause failed to restrict the query results based on the contents of the fourth column in the table):

SELECT
  *
FROM
  T1
WHERE
  MY_DATa=1;

   MY_DATA    My_Data    my_data    MY_DATa
---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
         1          2          3          4

Let’s try again, this time wrapping the column name found in the WHERE clause in quotes:

SELECT
  *
FROM
  T1
WHERE
  "MY_DATA"=1;

   MY_DATA    My_Data    my_data    MY_DATa
---------- ---------- ---------- ----------
         1          2          3          4

A row was still returned (as expected).  So then, how do we determine which rows in the table have a value of 1 in the fourth column?  We need to place the column name found in the WHERE clause within quotes as follows:

SELECT
  *
FROM
  T1
WHERE
  "MY_DATa"=1;

no rows selected

Notice that this time no rows were returned (as intended, and expected).

I guess that the lesson here is to be careful when creating tables in Oracle Database.  Just because other database products may place column names within quotes as standard practice, that does not indicate that you, as the developer, should continue the practice when working with Oracle Databases.  Now get out there and create some 16 column tables with choice four letter words.  :-)








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