Edinburgh, Taiwan (Province of China)

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I got a royalty check from Chicago today, and I stared in astonishment at the home address on the payment advice. It was roughly correct in the first four lines, but the last line, after "EDINBURGH EH3 6RY", where the country name "United Kingdom" should have come, said "TAIWAN, PROVINCE OF CHINA".

Let's put aside the side issue of whether Taiwan is a province of China. There is a lot of politics behind that. Technically the name of the place in question is "the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu (Chinese Taipei)", and I mentioned it once before, pointing out that it is the world's longest country name — if you count it as a country. For the Taiwanese it's desperately important that they are a country; for China, it's desperately important that they aren't. Stay away from the issue.

The thing I want to stress today is quite separate from these geopolitical matters. Just in case there is any doubt in anyone's mind about it, let me assert firmly that Edinburgh is not in Taiwan. Trust me. I have spent time in both places. I liked Taiwan; but Edinburgh was not there. It is in Scotland. I am there: I work at the University of Edinburgh at the moment. Right now the Edinburgh International Festival, and its giant somewhat more lowbrow spawn the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, are in full swing. This is Edinburgh; I just couldn't be wrong about this point. It is not Taiwan. I would have noticed.

The question is, what on earth caused the error? It is not a simple database error in Chicago, unless there are several distinct databases. The address on the royalty check was roughly correct, and the address on the royalty statement was exactly correct; only the payment advice had the line about Taiwan.

The first thing that occurred to me was that it might have been a dropdown list selection error in the data entry process for the payment advice. But that really doesn't seem very likely; in between Taiwan and the UK would come at least Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates. And we would have to assume that there were different data entry routines for the payment advice and the check itself (printed on the same piece of paper), which seems insane. Yet I suppose we have to posit that insanity anyway.

Anyway, all hypotheses seem insane. I have no idea what sort of error this could have been. But I suppose it could have been worse if it were a translation error: my payment advice could have said homozygous fungus gnat maggots.

[Comments are off because of a database error in Taiwan.]

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