Babies named for Robert La Follette

Politician Robert La Follette (1855-1925)
Robert La Follette

Politician Robert Marion La Follette (1855-1925) served as Governor of Wisconsin (from 1901 to 1906) and as U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (from 1906 to 1925).

In 1924, he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. President as a third-party candidate. He wasn’t able to overcome Coolidge, but he did win 16.6% of the popular vote (and he carried the state of Wisconsin, of course).

Dozens of baby boys — most born in the state of Wisconsin, unsurprisingly — were named in La Follette’s honor during the early decades of the 1900s. Some examples…

The fourth namesake on this list went on to be appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1966. (He was the second Native American to hold the position.) He was sworn in by Lyndon B. Johnson, who said:

This morning Mr. Robert La Follette Bennett — who bears this great name of an American who fought all of his life for the rights of his fellow citizens, named for a man who is revered from one end of the country to the other, and now his namesake — comes here to assume a position in which he will be able to carry on that proud tradition.

Dozens of other babies were given the first name La Follette. For instance, La Follette Marion Allen was born in Wisconsin in 1902. (His father was named DeWitt Clinton Allen, interestingly.)

Several months after Robert M. La Follette passed away in 1925, his son Robert M. La Follette, Jr., was elected to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy. La Follette, Jr., served in the Senate for more than 21 years before he was finally ousted in the mid-1940s by none other than Joseph McCarthy.


Spain does not allow baby to be named Lenin

Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)
Vladimir Lenin

In 1986, a couple in a small town in northwestern Spain decided to name their baby Lenin.

A district judge, however, rejected the name — not for political reasons, but because “Spanish law did not permit civil registers to include foreign pseudonyms or nicknames which have no Spanish equivalent.”

Vladimir Lenin — leader of the Russian Revolution and founder of the Soviet state — was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in 1870. He adopted the pseudonym Lenin in the early 1900s to evade detection by tsarist authorities.

Why “Lenin”? No one knows for certain:

Was he inspired by the Siberian river Lena? Or was Lena the name of an early girlfriend? Or was it that the Slavonic etymological root of Lenin implies laziness and that Vladimir Ulyanov, like a medieval monk in a hairshirt, wanted to remind himself constantly that effort was needed?

In the U.S., several dozen babies per year are named Lenin.


Hungary does not allow baby to be named Titanic

RMS Titanic
RMS Titanic

Back in 1912, a baker in Hungary welcomed a baby girl. She was born on the day the Titanic sank (April 15), so he decided to name her Titanic after the event.

The official at the registrar’s office, “however, refused to accept this name, as it is not to be found in the calendar of Roman Catholic saints’ days, and the baker had to content himself with the less topical name of Rosalia.”

My source noted that this particular baby was “saved” from getting an “unsuitable” name, but that similar regulations had proven too restrictive in other cases. For instance, one baby girl born in Vienna was not permitted to be christened Daisy, even though that was the name of her mother (from England).

Source: “Titanic as Baby’s Name.” Press [Canterbury, NZ] 1 Jul. 1912: 6.

P.S. Several U.S. and Canadian babies were named Titanic in 1912.

Baby name story: Gaynell

LSU football player Gaynell "Gus" Kinchen
Gaynell Kinchen

While doing research on Gaynell Tinsley, I came across the following name story:

Jacob Calvin Kinchen had a lot to consider when it came time, on June 7, 1938, to name his first child, starting with the fact that he had never really liked his own first name. […] Perhaps that would have been enough to push any less of a football man toward the choice of a safe name that would always be comfortable for his child. But Jake could not help himself. He had been captain of his high school football team, the Albany Panthers, 1934 district champions in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, and he had become a coach at nearby Live Oak High School. […] Only a man with such passion for sport could possibly look beyond his own discomfort with the seemingly benign name of Jacob and name his son…Gaynell.

Gaynell Kinchen “despised the childhood razzing that came with such an unusual name,” though, so in high school he started going by “Gus” — just like his namesake, Gaynell Tinsley.

Also like Tinsley, Kinchen played football at LSU. And so did two of his own sons, Todd and Brian — both of whom went on to play in the NFL. In fact, Brian Kinchen snapped the game-winning field goal for the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.