Peter Ford wrote:
Michael A. Peters wrote:
I have absolutely no control over the source file.

The source file is an xml file (er, sort of, it doesn't follow any
particular DTD) and has a tag called VERBATIM_DATE in each record -
looks to be required in their output as every record so far has it, but
w/o a DTD hard to know - time of day, on the other hand, is not required
and sometimes (usually) the tag missing.

Here's the beauty - VERBATIM_DATE in the same xml file uses multiple
different formats. IE -

12 March 1945
14 Mar 1967
Apr 1999
Before 1904
Winter or Spring 1977


It does seem that if there is a day, the day is always first - but
sometimes it has a space as a delimiter, - as delimiter, and sometimes
it has both - IE

10-15 Dec 1934
12 March-03 April 1956

What I'm trying to do is write a preg matches for each case I come
across - if it matches the preg, it then parses according to the pattern
to get me an acceptable YYYY-MM-DD (not sure how I'll deal with the
season case yet ... but I'm serious, that kind of thing in there several

To at least get started though, is there a wildcard defined that says
match a month?



where MONTH is some special magic that matches Mar March Apr April etc. ?

If you must know - it's data from a biology vertebrate museum. Thousands
of records may match a given query. Most of them look fairly easily
parsable and it does look like when a day is specified, it is always
first and year is always last.

The data is needed by me, so I'm planning on having the script die if it
comes across a date I don't have a regex to parse before it does
anything so I can add appropriate regex as necessary, but damn - you'd
think a vertebrate museum would have cleaned up their DB somewhat.

My first shot would be to see how far I get with strtotime(), or date_create().
The rest looks like a job for the Mechanical Turk (

For your specific query, you could do something like
(Jan|January|Feb|February|...) alternation, but that won't catch typos and
idiosyncrasies. You probably want to make it case-insensitive too.

I suspect you will end up with a bunch of records where the data cannot be
parsed sensibly - I would probably write the list of such records to an
exception file. Once you have a a system that generates a manageable number of
exceptions you can deal with those by hand.

As for your expectation of a museum: the reputation of "dusty old rooms full of
stuff" is not entirely un-earned, so I wouldn't expect their databases to be

I got it figured out - the dates I couldn't parse I went ahead and entered into my database anyway but with a date of 1800-01-01 so I can go back and manually deal with them later (not that many)

Working fabulously :)

(yes - most the records are > 5 years old, younger records that are not in that museum will be added soon)

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