I discovered today that Moneygement won’t accept unicode characters when someone adds transactions by email because of the editdist module I used to check it. Since I don’t really need a fast function to do it (it’s all eight-letter words on average), I decided to write my own Python version of the function and am sharing it here if anyone needs it (because I haven’t found a Python implementation anywhere). It’s released under a BSD license with attribution, meaning that I’d like it if my name was mentioned where it is used :)

def levenshtein_distance(first, second):
    """Find the Levenshtein distance between two strings."""
    if len(first) > len(second):
        first, second = second, first
    if len(second) == 0:
        return len(first)
    first_length = len(first) + 1
    second_length = len(second) + 1
    distance_matrix = [[0] * second_length for x in range(first_length)]
    for i in range(first_length):
       distance_matrix[i][0] = i
    for j in range(second_length):
       distance_matrix[0][j]=j
    for i in xrange(1, first_length):
        for j in range(1, second_length):
            deletion = distance_matrix[i-1][j] + 1
            insertion = distance_matrix[i][j-1] + 1
            substitution = distance_matrix[i-1][j-1]
            if first[i-1] != second[j-1]:
                substitution += 1
            distance_matrix[i][j] = min(insertion, deletion, substitution)
    return distance_matrix[first_length-1][second_length-1]