ensnare ensnare - 10 days ago 7
MySQL Question

UnicodeEncodeError: 'latin-1' codec can't encode character

What could be causing this error when I try to insert a foreign character into the database?

>>UnicodeEncodeError: 'latin-1' codec can't encode character u'\u201c' in position 0: ordinal not in range(256)


And how do I resolve it?

Thanks!

Answer

Character U+201C Left Double Quotation Mark is not present in the Latin-1 (ISO-8859-1) encoding.

It is present in code page 1252 (Western European). This is a Windows-specific encoding that is based on ISO-8859-1 but which puts extra characters into the range 0x80-0x9F. Code page 1252 is often confused with ISO-8859-1, and it's an annoying but now-standard web browser behaviour that if you serve your pages as ISO-8859-1, the browser will treat them as cp1252 instead. However, they really are two distinct encodings:

>>> u'He said \u201CHello\u201D'.encode('iso-8859-1')
UnicodeEncodeError
>>> u'He said \u201CHello\u201D'.encode('cp1252')
'He said \x93Hello\x94'

If you are using your database only as a byte store, you can use cp1252 to encode and other characters present in the Windows Western code page. But still other Unicode characters which are not present in cp1252 will cause errors.

You can use encode(..., 'ignore') to suppress the errors by getting rid of the characters, but really in this century you should be using UTF-8 in both your database and your pages. This encoding allows any character to be used. You should also ideally tell MySQL you are using UTF-8 strings (by setting the database connection and the collation on string columns), so it can get case-insensitive comparison and sorting right.