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.

You May Also Like:

What do you think?


      1. This one is fixed now, but Charlotte is right – lots of the posts got splinched in the move to the new host. Leave a comment on any that you find and I’ll fix them ASAP.

  1. Frederic and Theodore are cool.
    I like the names Theo and Leo but obviously it would be a bit confusing if I called a son that!

  2. Fabulous list! I have a secret hankering after Ignatius, and I think it goes well with Alexander in style if not in familiarity (depending on the community you’re from). Rufus, George, Walter, and Theodore are all brilliant. I love Frederic, but I share your reservations about Fred.

    You need more children, if only to bring more fabulously named kids into the world!

    1. Ignatius would be fine here, especially since there are so many Latino families. One of our neighbors has a baby Santiago! And, y’know, Catholic. Names like Augustin and Francis are slightly more common in our immediate circle than they would be elsewhere, I think.

      I love Iggy, plus there’s always Nate if he doesn’t care for his dramatic full name at some point … hypothetically speaking, of course. I’d love more kids, but I’m just not sure if we can handle it!

  3. My husband’s bff’s name is Frederik (he’s German). We’ve always called him Fred. He’s 29 now, but we met him going on 11 years ago, so an 18 year-old Fred doesn’t strike me as odd in the slightest.

      1. I suspect I’m wrong about Fred. 🙂 And Fritz is a little bit over the top, isn’t it? One of the things I didn’t understand until I had kids was that you have to choose a name for a total stranger. It takes years to figure out if you’ve got it right, and by then, you pretty much have to assume that you did just fine.