Even before the pregnancy test came back positive, I had a strong sense that our second child was a girl.

Intuition didn’t stop me from discussing boys’ names with Arthur. So much that he finally insisted that we wait until the ultrasound, at which point it was moot. Claire Caroline WrenClio – was on her way.

Our firstborn is Alexander Arthur, after my father-in-law Alexander, my grandfather Arthur and, of course, Arthur. There just wasn’t a clear choice for a second boys’ name. Plus, I always feel like we flubbed his nickname – though he wears Aly fine. Our list for a second daughter is well thought out, but a boy?

We would have figured something out. I think.

1. The frontrunner – Henry Christopher Clark, Henry Christian Clark or Henry Christian Rohn

I like Henry. Arthur does not love Henry, mostly because of how it sounds in Polish. (My in-laws speak Polish, and call our kids by Polish diminutives – OH loosh and clahr OON yeh. Henry would be hen YO.)

Aly likes Henry, and suggested Henry Gordon if Clio had been a boy, inspired by two Thomas the Tank Engine characters.

Christopher is from my mother-in-law’s maiden name. It’s Arthur’s middle name, too, and my brother-in-law is Christian. I’m not wild about Chris- names, though I do like the nickname Kit.

Clark was our nickname for my father. And Rohn is our nickname for my brother.

Any of the three balance out honoring both sides of the family. But Henry feels like a compromise choice. And I can’t imagine what we’d actually call him. Huck, maybe? Hex? I know myself well enough to know that I’d inevitably nickname our son something.

Henry is a compromise choice, the kind of name we can both live with, but not the kind of name that you hear and say “Yes! That’s the name for our son!”

2. Eric Christopher

We’d initially planned to name our firstborn Alexander Eric, after both grandfathers. But what if we had a second son? Wouldn’t we want to name him Eric?

I’d love to name a son after my dad. Trouble is, my brother is Eric Jr. And my brother has declared that he intends to (someday) pass Eric on to his son.

I don’t hesitate to re-invent well-worn family names, but Eric isn’t exactly nickname-rich. And Eric Christopher is nice, but like Henry, it feels like we’d be settling.

3. Clark

I love Clark, my father’s nickname. It brings to mind all the Western of Lewis and Clark, Hollywood’s Clark Gable and Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent. What’s not to love?

Trouble is that my dad earned his nickname in honor of Clark W. Griswold, Chevy Chase’s bumbling dad character in the National Lampoons Vacation series.

And it doesn’t pair well with our son’s name – Alexander and Clark. Not awful, but not great. Alex and Clark, Aly and Clark.

Even worse, Clark is very close to Clio’s first name, Claire. Aly, Clio and Clark. Alex, Clio and Clark. Alexei, Clio and Clark. It just doesn’t sound like the same family.

4. Frederic

If we wanted to reserve Eric for my brother, I liked the idea of Frederic. It’s the French spelling, but it makes for a Polish heritage choice, thanks to Warsaw native and piano virtuoso Frederic Chopin. Naming a son after a Polish composer would make my husband’s family very happy, indeed.

The nickname options rock: Freddie and Fritz. And the formal names go together: Alexander, Claire Caroline and Frederic.

But then there’s Fred, as in Flinstone. A 5 year old Freddie, sure. But a 16 year old Fred? A 32 year old Fred? I don’t love it.

5. Gray

Arthur’s mother’s name is Grazyna. Nope, it doesn’t mean Gray. But if we had a tough time figuring out how Grazyna would wear on a girl, it was even tougher to twist Grazyna for a boy.

It conjures up former California governor Gray Davis. (His full name is Joseph Graham Davis.) And then there’s the kid in the Nanny Diaries, Grayer. And plenty of parents are landing on Grayson as a successor name to Brayden and Jackson and such.

Maybe in the middle.

6. Calder, Crosby

I love Calder’s artistic vibe, and the sporty nickname option Cal.

Except the artist’s full name is Alexander Calder. That’s weird. You don’t think anyone would make the association? We live in Metro DC, home of the highly educated. Also home to a huge Alexander Calder mobile at the National Gallery of Art. So, no.

Crosby is one of my favorite surnames in the front spot. It’s musical (Thanks to Bing and David of CSN) and quite sportif, thanks to the National Hockey League’s Sidney Crosby. But it isn’t quite our style to just use a name because we like it.

7. Archer

My grandfather was a butcher, but he also wrote poetry under the pen name Archie White. I love everything about this name, from the mythological aspect to the vintage vibe of Archibald.

But we had ruled out choosing another A name. And Archer and Arthur seem too close for comfort.

8. Esteban

When we were casting about for a middle name to pair with Alexander, I suggested honoring my Uncle Steve.

Trouble is? Our last name starts with S. Alexander Stephen S. Imagine the monogram.

So, no.

I liked Esteban instead, and I love the sound of Alexander Esteban. But Arthur wasn’t wild about using a Spanish middle name when neither of us could claim any heritage beyond eating at a tapas bar.

9. Theodore

My mother-in-law’s full name is Grazyna Zofia Theodosia, so I thought Theodore would make for the perfect boy name.

Except that Arthur vetoed any name worn by a chipmunk. (Alvin and Simon were also out.) Too bad.

Now, of course, we can’t have a Clio and a Theo.

10. George, nicknamed Geordie.

I have a fabulous Uncle George, and he’s named after his father. I love the nickname Geordie, and like Frederic, I think the kids’ formal names would go together. And my husband is a Georgetown grad, so the part of him that bleeds Hoya blue would be pleased.

But Geordie is close to the popular Jordan. And I’m not sure about a middle name.

11. Matteo/Mathieu/Matthias/Matthew

Matthew is one name that repeats on both family trees, in Italy and Poland, and works just fine in the US. A few days postpartum, I realized that we should’ve named our son Alexander Matteo.

There are two issues. First, my younger sister wants me to stop using all the good names before she has a chance, and feels that Matteo is hers to use. More importantly, I don’t like the nickname Matt.

12. Walton, Walter

There’s a story that my grandmother couldn’t pick a middle name for my dad. So she wrote down a bunch of choices that sounded fine with Eric, put ’em in a hat, and drew.

She chose Walter, a name that once sounded dated. I had Henry Walton on my lists for years, until I realized it was the given name of fictional adventurer Indiana Jones.

13. Anthony, Anton

There are plenty of Anthonys on my family tree, but somehow it never felt like the right choice.

14. Huxley, Hawthorne

I love Huxley, as in the writer Aldous Huxley. I toyed with Henry Huxley, but I’m fairly certain Arthur’s head would’ve exploded if I’d suggested that combo. Too bad, because Henry Huxley Gray remains my favorite combo.

While I’m stealing writer’s surnames, I like Hawthorne heaps, too. But it sounds really pretentious in the first spot, especially since my only connection is a dog-eared copy of The Scarlet Letter.

15. Abbott, Ellery

Abbott is from my name, Abigail, and only in the middle spot. Ditto my step-grandfather’s name, Ellery.

16. Joseph

My great-grandfather was Joseph. Because there were far more girls than boys in my mom’s family, Joseph wasn’t overused. I like Joseph, but like Henry, he feels like an acceptable compromise.

17. Beau

After my sister, nicknamed Bo. But it’s too gunslinger for us to put it in the first spot.

18. Ignatius

This might sound crazy, but I actually think we’d have ended up with an Ignatius.

St. Ignatius Loyola founded the Jesuits, and so my Georgetown-grad husband finds the name perfectly familiar, as would many of our friends and family. Our kids have a same-aged cousin in Poland called Ignace.

19. Julien, Rufus

Two names I just like. Unlike Dante, they never got the veto from Arthur – but I’m not sure he’s wild about either choice.

20. Nikolai, Nicolo, Nicholas, Nico

The ultimate compromise name – there must be dozens of brothers named Alexander and Nicholas. Alexei and Nikolai seem like an inevitable pair. Except that while Aleksy is a valid Polish name, Nikolai is Russian. The Polish version of the name is Mikolaj.

As I’ve said before, we’re not planning on adding to our family. But the list lingers!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I’d be mightily impressed if you wound up with an Ignatius!

    Many of these have graced my own lists. We share a love of Frederic and Julien, Nico and Henry, George and Theodore. As for Henry, I know far too many, but years ago I might have used it and called him Hank. I also love Hal and think Hal Sandel is memorable. Would you consider Harry?

    1. My hubby almost didn’t agree to Henry because he dislikes the nickname Hank. We did have his Uncle joke that we named our son ‘Hanky Bob’ (Henry Robert) but no-one has tried to call him Hank.

      I prefer Harry – with it being the British nickname. I’d not even heard of Hank until moving to the USA.

      Hal is cool too – though does make me think of the Dad on ‘Malcolm in the Middle’.

      We had good friends tell us they would have used Henry if we hadn’t have done so. Their son was born 2 years after ours.

    2. Harry – here’s the problem. I’m half Swedish and half Sicilian – fair-skinned, but furry. Hairy Harry is a very real possibility. We’ve got the 529, the fund for therapy – not sure if we want to start an electrolysis fund, too!

      I think we’d actually end up with an Ignatius. Because how could I resist Iggy?

  2. I love George Julian Ignatius! And Nacho is too cute. I sometimes call Clio “Cheeto,” but it upsets Aly.

  3. Love a lot of these!

    I like Henry and nn Hank is cool. Your Henry Huxley Gray is fantastic! Hux as a nn works that way and also I like that it has the alliteration you’ve got with your first two.

    I really like Frederic as well. I know a 50ish Fred and it works. It really grew on me and made my short list until I realized that Fred Edlastname did not work (duh!). But I still think it’s a great name and way underused.

    I like Gray, but as you say, in the middle.

    Archer is nice as well… I love Archie… but do agree that Arthur and Archer are awfully similar.

    Theodore is great, but Theo and Clio is a bit much.

    Ahhh…. George…. I love love love George, obviously… Geordie is fun, but my personal favorite is Dodge. It works well with your kids’ names too… This, Henry, and Frederic are my top votes so far.

    Walter is another great one. I love the vibe it gives…. kind of Mad Men or maybe it’s really more tame and more of a Leave it to Beaver thing… but the parents, not the kids.

    Ignatius – oooh… I like! This did not make our list despite my campaigning for the nn Iggy… my husband didn’t want to go with Ignatius – I guess the full name was too much for him. I did a summer doing a language program in Argentina (gosh, nearly 2 decades ago now) and my host family included an Ignacio (nn Nacho, which I kinda like in a nutty sorta way)… but Iggy? That’s awesome! It’s one of those names I’d almost be compelled to use because the nn is just so great!

    Julien is nice. I had Julian around because I love my Grandpa’s mn, but the other half said ‘no way’… I still like it, though. Maybe George Julien Gray? It has the alliteration without the same letter though. Or George Julian Ignatius?

    Well, I’d say, if you expanded your family, you’re in good shape in the naming department! Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. No, but we should! Since our last name starts with an S, Grace runs into Sandel, and I’m not into Gracelyn and other mash-ups that always seem forced.

      But Gratian is cool.

  4. I love Calder. I know someone who knows someone called that, actually… it’s catching on, but not in a way that I think will take off in a major way. I also love Walter.

    I just found this website — have you covered Siofra, Pallas, Romola or Saoirse yet? I couldn’t find any of them in the search and they’re some of my favorite names. 🙁

  5. Henry is my obvious favourite. Henry Huxley is cute. 🙂

    I like Frederic too. Though maybe Alfred more – as then you have Alfie or Fred.

    Crosby – I grew up nearby a little town with that name. So it’s all place name to me and would be weird for me to use personally.

    George is one we had on our list for awhile. I think a friend suggested it as a joke and my husband liked it and then it did start to grow on me. Though we knew a 6 year old George at our church and I didn’t want to copy that family – preferring names that I don’t know anyone with – especially local children.

    Rufus is pretty cool – though does make me think of dogs. 🙁

  6. I love it. If we ever have a girl, we’re pretty well set on Caroline Margaret or Daphne Margaret. God help us if we ever have another boy. My list is:

    Asher -Kevin thinks of Ashton Kutcher, who he hates.

    Felix -‘The cat?’ He keeps saying.

    Dean -but our first is James.

    Rhys -too girly sounding, too hard to spell for him.

    Charles -We both like it, but it doesn’t sing to us. Plus, we’d almost exclusively call him Charlie, and we’ve had a baby born in the last year named Charlie. Plus, we’ve both worked with Charlies, and it feels a bit weird.

    Walter -I like it, he thinks it’s a bit frumpy, and there is a not too nice family acquaintance named Walter.

    Arthur -I love it, he thinks it sounds too growly with our last name and too fusty.

    Dexter -what we’d probably end up with. He doesn’t feel like he could actually use it because it’s a bit too out there, and the show is still pretty popular.

    Adam -Jamie and Adam from Mythbusters? Plus, we want to use Alan as a middle name, and Adam Alan looks gross on paper to both of us. There aren’t a lot of nicknames for it. Addy? Hrmmm.

    From your list, you know how much I like Calder, being my maiden name and all. 😉 I think Huxley’s the coolest, but it is a bit out there with your other kids. How about Walter Henry Huxley? You know, just in case.

      1. Just trying to help name a theoretical, probably-not-going-to-happen baby. It’s what I do 😉

    1. I like Walter a lot. 🙂 That was on my list for our 2 year old son, who is Henry. His nickname at home is Hens. For awhile it was Spens, as my husband had been calling him Henry Spenry. At that point our daughter thought his middle name was actually Spenry – she introduced him as such.

      I have friends who have a 7 month old Dexter. He goes by Dex. I’ve never seen the TV show – not sure if they have, as I don’t think they have cable.

      I totally like that people have name lists for children that they may not have! 🙂 I wrote some down myself for that reason too.

      1. I didn’t mention it on my previous list, but I loooove Henry. My SIL’s abusive ex/baby daddy is a Henry, and it sounds silly/dumb with our last name, so it is very sadly off our list to even consider. I love Henry Spenry. What a cute nickname! My mom used to call me Katerina Josefina (YO-se-fee-na), and I was convinced it was my real name, not Katherine Elizabeth.

  7. 1. You gotta stop spreading Gray! LOVE it and it’s been my kinda secret nn for Grady, which is a family name on my mother’s side for four generations. (Maybe longer, who knows?)

    2. LOVE Henry too. I don’t think it /needs/ a nn, but Hank might be OK. Makes me think of good guy Tom Hanks.

    3. Walton is a family name for my mother’s side too, so I’m happy to see it here.

    4. When you questioned a 16-year-old Fred, you’re forgetting Scooby Doo’s leader Fred. I also think of teenager Friederich in The Sound Of Music. And we had a Fred in my high school who later played football for the Chicago Bears.

    5. I really like Eric, but instead of Frederic, I would probably add the k and choose Frederick.

    6. Abbott makes me think too much of church leaders and Costello’s “Hey Abbott!”

    7. Ellery, Beau, Joseph, Calder, Crosby, Archer, Christian and George are all very nice.

    Nice list!

    1. Sorry ’bout Gray. I just love it, but hey – I’m not using it, so your secret is safe. Probably. 🙂

    1. Me, too – except our last name ends with -del, so there is something sing-song about Cal Sandel, Mal Sandel, Hal Sandel, etc. And it completely ruled out my once favorite girls’ name, Mariel!