What’s in a Name? Nicole Richie’s Son, Sparrow James Midnight

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Nameberry.com editors Pamela Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz — who penned the books Baby Name Bible and Beyond Ava & Aiden — are blogging for UsMagazine.com about why celebs choose the names they do, and what they mean.

Happy first birthday, Sparrow James Midnight Madden!

The son of Nicole Richie and Joel Madden, who arrived on notable 9-9-09, has a name even more notable than that of big sister Harlow Winter Kate.

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Sparrow, which shares Harlow's ending in both spelling and sound, is of course a bird name, which is the hottest class of the hot animal names. Other fashionable bird choices are Wren and Lark. Birds carry a great deal of spiritual symbolism, standing for flight, freedom, light and soaring upward.

Sparrow's name also mirrors sister Harlow's in that he has two middle names, one conventional and one that's a contemporary spin on ancient African day names, which traditionally reference the time of day, day of the week or season of the year a child is born. Winter and Midnight are modern versions of names such as Friday, Afternoon and Christmas, found among early African-Americans.

Harlow Madden was born in winter; Sparrow arrived soon after midnight.

Sparrow and Harlow also relate in that both can be used for either boys or girls. In 2009, there were 17 newborn boys given the name Harlow (and 299 girls, thanks to its popularization by Little Miss Madden), and 16 girls named Sparrow. But fewer than five boys were named Sparrow, though that may change in the 2010 tally.

Parents are more open these days to giving boys names also used for girls. Some examples we're seeing that are widely used for both genders: Cameron, Riley, Peyton, Avery, Dakota and Quinn.

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