I suppose plenty of bloggers struggle with how much of their personal lives to share. I’ll admit, I didn’t give it a moment’s thought when I started writing this site a few months ago. But what with an addition to our own family, I’ve been unsure how to proceed.

So here’s my solution: might as well tell you everything. (If you’re just here for the name chatter and not for the details of my ever-so-exciting life, please feel free to skip the rest of the post. It’s either mildly interesting or mind-numbingly boring. But hey, it beats listening to coverage of the economy.)

First, Clio’s full name is … not Clio. It’s Claire Caroline Wren. Her first name has been written in stone since before my husband and I tied the knot, as part of the Great Naming Compromise of 2001. (Other couples sign pre-nups. We agreed that our firstborn son would receive his father’s name, our firstborn daughter my mother’s name. Given that he likes Emily and I prefer Callixto, this was no small agreement.)

But it wasn’t quite that easy. My father-in-law was born Aleksander in Poland. Did we preserve the Polish spelling? He’d dropped it when he became a US citizen, feeling it was better to Americanize his name. So we used Alexander on his birth certificate. I struggled with a nickname for years.

My husband rejected Sasha as too Russian. I latched on to Alexei as authentically Polish – or would it be spelled Aleksey? I considered spelling it Alexy for a while as a (messy) compromise, but when our toddler became obsessed with ice hockey, it was clear that he’d have to be Alexei. As it happens, our son calls himself Aly. His grandparents call him by a (Polish) diminutive that sounds something like OH loosh – a pet name my husband didn’t even realize existed before our son was born.

As for Claire/Clio, I realized quickly that the mistake we made with our son was not settling on any one name before he was born. Calling her Claire was out – it’s a family name on my side, shared by my mother, my great-grandmother and umpteen cousins. (After Clio was born, my sister married into a family with even more Clares.) And while it’s classic, it’s too tame for my tastes.

In fact, my mother isn’t actually Clare – she’s Clarina. It’s close to the literary Clarinda, but is actually an Americanization of an elaboration of Chiara – the Italian form of Clara. Because my mother was among the younger cousins to be named in honor of her clan’s matriarch, she received one of the more unusual variants. And oh boy golly, does she hate it! In fact, she has forbidden any of her four children from handing it down and so, Claire Caroline was our way of picking up the “ina.” I also liked Caroline’s “o” and felt it gave us more nickname options.

We’d initially considered the nickname Callie but a) it sounds too much like Kaylie and so many popular names; b) since my family calls our firstborn Aly, that would just be silly. I pushed hard for Coco, but my husband got more of a “gorilla” than “high fashion” vibe from the name. We arrived at Clio and both said “that works!” But then we argued about the e versus i spellings for a while. Arthur thought the e made more sense, especially since my dear dad had called me Cleopatra. But we eventually agreed on Clio, possibly because he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

As for Wren, my younger sister is known as Bird. So Wren honors Aunt Bird. I’m delighted that I managed to honor two of the most important women in my life with my daughter’s name.

Anyhow, settling on Clio upfront has made things quite easy. We don’t bother to explain that she has a different formal name – at least not in real life – and everyone is using it. Our parish (we’re Catholic) is exactly old school enough to respect the idea that we’re baptizing her with a saint’s name and to understand that family names often lead to nicknames. Since she’ll likely attend our parish’s schools, just like our son does, there’s little danger of confusion. (Though I suppose she might be annoyed to be Claire on her driver’s license. But I’m Amy on mine and no one who actually knows me would think to call me by that name.)

So back to my daughter – any my darling son – here’s a snapshot of the two of them on her first day home. Our firstborn’s feelings about his little sister are, predictably, mixed, but we’re going to keep her anyway.

There … more than you ever wanted to know, but I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling like I was hiding something by not revealing that Clio wasn’t going on her birth certificate. We’ve both fallen in love with the name, and feel it suits her perfectly – if anything, I’m a little sorry that I was so quick to agree back in ’01, but pleased to keep a family name alive, too.

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. Wow, Emmy Jo! That is the wierdest thing, my SO and I have agreed on Clara Annelies too! (minus your last ‘E’, which causes it to be pronounced ‘Anna-leez’ as opposed to ‘Anna-lisa’) Though your names are in honour of your mothers, whereas mine is after Anne Frank, one of my greatest influences. Still, that’s quite a coincidence if I ever saw one! Not many people even use Clara, let alone the two together! I suppose they are fairly unusual names…

    Anyway, great job naming your children Appellation Mountain (sorry, do not know your actual name!) and I loved hearing the story behind it. It’s naming troubles like that which make me love the ‘art of naming’!

  2. Thanks so much everyone! I think they’re cute, too, but hey – I’m biased. 🙂

    And Katharine, I’m due to update the calendar next week. (Fingers crossed that I get to it.) So these are perfectly timed! (Apologies to anyone who’s sent suggestions my way in the past ten days – I haven’t been on top of things.) I’ll let you know when I do. I’m particularly curious about Geoffrey. It’s the name of our financial advisor, but he pronounces Geoff not like Jeff, but Jof. I’m baffled by it, but haven’t asked. (These days, he’s overwhelmed himself!)

  3. Awwww! Your kids are so cute! Claire Caroline Wren is a very beautiful, classy name. I love it and it flows perfectly. Alexei is a great name too. It’s a nice change from the super common Alexander.

    I can understand the driver’s license thing too. I hate being Amanda Lynn, since it is way too common and alot of people like to make fun of it, not to mention there aren’t any cool nicknames. It’s still on my ID card and all my other legal documents and stuff, but I don’t let anyone call me by my real name. I choose to go by Laney instead because it is pretty close to my middle name but still different.

  4. I hope you don’t mind but I have a few suggestions for name of the day…
    I’ve reached far and wide for some boys names that I’d love to see as name of the day (I’m trying really hard with boys names at the moment to make up for my usual neglect!)

    Ewan/Euan – I have a bit of a crush on this sexy sounding Welsh name
    Edward/Edmund – gloriously stuffy & Royal sounding with huge nickname potential
    Abraham – intriguing old Biblical stalwart
    Hamish – gorgeously Scottish, I imagine kilts and curly locks when I hear this one!
    Geoffrey – a bit dated these days but I like his sound
    Guy – Handsome, upper middle class and very English

    Obviously, ignore any of these suggestions if they’ve already been discussed…

  5. I love Claire Caroline Wren – a beautiful, classic and unique name, and Clio is spunky and arty – Well done you for giving your little girl so many choices… They both look gorgeous in the photo too 🙂

    If you haven’t already tackled it before, please could Wren be a name of the day? She really intrigues me and I’d love to learn more about her – oh and Emmy Jo – Elizabeth Wren is beautiful!

  6. Verity, I’ll just kow-tow to your ability to compromise. I love the creativity you used to both honor family and give your kids their own names. It took us years to agree to family middle names and unique to our kids first names. And unique is ending up being James. :/ Your story with your names are just awesome. It’s actually really comforting to know that people who have really creative taste in names can name with people who are James and Emily sorts of people. I love the sound of Claire Caroline Wren. It flows, it has meaning, and has given you guys a myriad of nicknames options. I love the compromises you’ve found with Alexei. Alexander may be common, but you guys have made it your own, and it was picked with love. Thank you for sharing your story, because it’s just inspiring and cool.

  7. Congratulations, Verity! Claire Caroline Wren is a gorgeous name. You know that Clara’s at the very top of my list; I love Caroline as well. I’ve recently fallen in love with Wren as a middle name for a classic first name. Elizabeth Wren is currently my top combo for it.

    It is tough to compromise between using family names and using the really cool awesome names one loves just because. My husband and I are discussing that right now, though we’ll probably have a couple years before we have to settle the question. I asked him about using Clara Persephone this morning (instead of the Clara Anneliese we had sort of settled on because it honors both our mothers). He seemed more interested in sleeping than discussing it.

    You’re actually managing to honor THREE women with her name and nickname — your mother, your sister, and YOU.

  8. My Gemma was Aia EYE-a today, and Veronica (whom we call Vera) was Aea AY-a. I don’t want to know why my kids are weird, but I think they get it from their father (who originally wanted them to be Ema and Ela).

    Claire Caroline Wren is GORGEOUS! She’s going to love having Claire and Clio, trust me. I understand the whole ‘pushing for one nickname’ thing, Veronica is completely Veronica to my entire family and his, but she’s Vera to us, and friends and school, but your little one is going to love having a “cool” name and a “normal name”. I LOVE Clio, and am seriously considering it as a first name for any future daughters we have…my list changes daily, so we’ll see, but I LOVE Clio!!

    I agree with Lola, he is most definitely an Alexei, and she looks so Clio-like! Congratulations, they are SO adorable! And congrats on the baby, most of all!

    PS: I knew a Caroline who went by Caro. There’s a new one 😉

  9. What an interesting story! You really are a naming maven, aren’t you? I never knew anyone who put so much planning into nicknames as well as formal names! In my family the nicknames are usually the diminutives of the full name – my brother Michael is Mike – but no one ever really thinks about what to call the baby; either the nickname comes out or it doesn’t.

    I think all versions of her name are beautiful. Claire and Caroline have long been favorites of mine, and I already wrote how much I love Clio. Congratulations again – on her birth as well as your naming proficiency. 🙂

  10. Oh, they are Beautiful! And he is most definitely an Alexi, those curls! (My Simon had curls like that until he was 12). Rest assured, Verity, Claire Caroline Wren is a gorgeous full name, beautiful in sentiment and will serve her well as she grows. And Clio (as she will always be to me), is a darling little nickname with as much meaning as her full name.
    As for Alexi and his many nicknames, don’t sweat it. Josephine, on a good day will answer to: Josephine, Josie, Posy, Fifi, Efiie & simply, Jos (like the first part of Josie. And that’s when she’s not saying “My name is Daphne, Henrietta, Betty, Candace or Mimi….” (pick a day, any day!) 😀

    I’m pleased to hear everything ended up well and am thrilled to see them both Great Job, Mama! 🙂