Using Wikipedia’s API to find inconsistently hyphenated French names

The other day I noticed that a lot of English Wikipedia articles about French people for some reason use a space between parts of the given name where primary sources and/or the French Wikipedia use a hyphen; for example, the English Wikipedia (as of May 2024) has “Marie Thérèse Geoffrin” where both the Bibliothèque nationale and Encyclopaedia Britannica have “Marie-Thérèse Geoffrin.”

I wrote a Python script that uses the Mediawiki API to enumerate the articles with this inconsistency, and generate requested moves for each page where the French article’s title begins with e.g. “Marie-Thérèse” and the English article’s title begins with “Marie Thérèse.” Wikipedia’s API documentation is a little scattered, but really great, as documentation goes. It includes lots of runnable examples. My script ended up using:

The first of these lets us query for all French Wikipedia articles whose titles begin with e.g. "Jean-":

def frtitles_for_name(name):
  S = requests.Session()
  PARAMS = {
    "action": "query",
    "format": "json",
    "list": "allpages",
    "aplimit": "500",
    "apprefix": (name + '-'),
    "apfilterredir": "nonredirects",
  while True:
    R = S.get(url="", params=PARAMS)
    DATA = R.json()
    for r in DATA["query"]["allpages"]:
      yield r["title"]
    if "continue" not in DATA:

The second lets us find the corresponding English Wikipedia article and check whether its title begins with "Jean-" or with "Jean ":

def entitles_for_frtitle(frtitle):
  S = requests.Session()
  R = S.get(url="", params={
    "action": "wbgetentities",
    "sites": "frwiki",
    "titles": frtitle,
    "props": "sitelinks",
    "format": "json",
  DATA = R.json()
  for r in DATA["entities"].values():
    entitle = r.get("sitelinks", {}).get("enwiki", {}).get("title", None)
    if entitle is not None:
      yield entitle

I used yield to make both functions into generators, even though we expect entitles_for_frtitle to return only a single result (or zero results), simply because that lets me write a nice clean main function like this:

for name in ['Anne', 'Claude', 'Guy', 'Jean']:
  for frtitle in frtitles_for_name(name):
    for entitle in entitles_for_frtitle(frtitle):
      hyphenated_name = frtitle.split()[0].strip(',')
      spaced_name = hyphenated_name.replace('-', ' ')
      if entitle.startswith(spaced_name):
        new_entitle = hyphenated_name + entitle[len(hyphenated_name):]
        print('* [[:%s]] → ' % (entitle, new_entitle))

This does miss a few cases, e.g. when the English title is missing not only the hyphen but also an accent (e.g. “Henri Evrard” for “Henri-Évrard”). And it has false positives for cases that aren’t personal names, for example the name of the 1956 film Marie Antoinette Queen of France (French: Marie-Antoinette reine de France). But it’s pretty darn good as a first pass.

See the complete Python script here, and look for those Wikipedia pages to get moved at some point in the near future.

Posted 2024-05-04