What's In a Name? Ask Mr. Leotard

To be sure, once pop culture adopts your name, it is no longer yours alone. And that can be a mixed blessing. Descendants of Joseph Guillotine petitioned the French government to change the name of the execution device that bears the family name.

But the French refused, so instead the Guillotines were forced to change their own name.

And how would it feel to be the children of Fitzherbert Batty? He was a Jamaican lawyer who was declared insane in 1839. It could drive you crazy just being Batty — or Mrs. Batty.

In the end, fate is capricious, and so is history's haphazard system of naming things. Charles Rushmore didn't discover the mountain that bears one of our country's most famous monuments. He wasn't a sculptor or even a philanthropist. He was a tourist in the Dakotas who asked his guide what a local range was called.

"It never had a name," the guide said. "But from now on, we will call the damn thing Rushmore."

P.S. How is this for a lofty ambition: Henry Jay Heimlich, the inventor of that life-saving maneuver, wanted to do a lot more than dislodge linguini from your throat.

"My ultimate goal," he told Who's Who in America, "is to … promote well-being for the largest number of people by establishing a philosophy that will eliminate war."

Buck Wolf is a producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is a weekly feature. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.

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