What turned Gaynell into a boy name (briefly) in the late 1930s?

Football player Gaynell Tinsley (1915-2002)
Gaynell Tinsley

Back when the baby name Gaynell was seeing regular usage in the U.S. — primarily in the southern states — it was given to baby girls.

For two consecutive years in the late 1930s, however, it popped up in the U.S. baby name data as a boy name:

  • 1939: unlisted (for boys)
  • 1938: 7 baby boys named Gaynell
  • 1937: 11 baby boys named Gaynell (debut)
    • 6 born in Louisiana specifically
  • 1936: unlisted (for boys)
  • 1935: unlisted (for boys)

Notably, Gaynell was the highest-debuting boy name of 1937.

What turned Gaynell into a boy name for just a bit?

The Louisiana usage points me to Gaynell Tinsley, who played football at Louisiana State University for three seasons (1934-1936). “The star end led the Tigers to their first two SEC titles and played in two Sugar Bowls.” He was also selected for the All-America Team twice (in 1935 and 1936).

In 1937, he was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals of the NFL. His professional career lasted only three seasons, but during that time he was selected for the All-Pro Team twice (in 1937 and 1938) and set/tied several single-season records.

Though he went by the nickname “Gus,” the newspapers only referred to him as Gaynell during the 1930s. (Years later, when he was LSU’s head coach, the papers used his nickname more often.)

What are your thoughts on the name Gaynell?

Source: Gaynell Tinsley – Wikipedia, Gaynell Tinsley – LSU

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