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Sparrow James Midnight: Behind the Richie-Madden's Name Choice

09/10/2009 at 11:00 AM ET
RIV/Fame

With many readers expressing their opinions on Joel Madden and Nicole Richie‘s choice of Sparrow James Midnight for their newborn son, we spoke to Linda Rosenkrantz, co-owner of NameBerry, as well as co-author of Beyond Ava & Aiden, to get her professional take on the moniker. She tells us,

“After Nicole and Joel gave their daughter the inventive name Harlow Winter Kate, there was much anticipation about what they would come up with for their second child — and they didn’t disappoint with their new son’s name, the equally unusual Sparrow James Midnight.

The two names have a perfect almost twin-like symmetry, one being ultra-feminine and the other very masculine. Sparrow has in the past been used for girls, but since the dynamically male appearance of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s taken on a swashbuckling pirate persona — while Harlow projects Old Hollywood feminissima glamour.

Both have traditional middle names — James and Kate — as well as a second dramatic, time-related name, with the darkness of Midnight contrasting with the whiteness of Winter. (They also reflect the growing trend for double middle names.)

But symmetry can go too far, and if there’s one problem it’s that Harlow and Sparrow might be overly similar in sound and spelling, making it seem a bit like an outdated twin pairing.

Sparrow also reflects the growing popularity of bird names — along with other nature names — both with celebrities and others. Past favorites like Robin and Raven have been supplanted by fresher choices such as the soft, feminine, free-flying Lark, Wren, Teal, Dove and Starling.

Some celebrities have gone generic with Birdie (used by Busy Philipps and Maura West), Avis (Daniel Baldwin) and countless Avas, as well as the Spanish-for-dove Paloma (Ana Ortiz, David Caruso, and middle name of Salma Hayek’s Valentina), and the mythical Phoenix, used by Melanie Brown.”

What do you think of nature names? Would/did you use one for your child?

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Showing 54 comments

appellationmountain on

One of my daughter’s middle names is Wren, in honor of her aunt’s nickname – Bird.

So yes, I’m partial to bird names. Lark is lovely, too, and Paloma is just gorgeous. But I find Sparrow a bit much, especially for a son, especially paired with big sister Harlow.

Chelsea on

Hated the name Sparrow when I first saw it yesterday, but it’s grown on me since then. I’ve heard worse.

JMO on

Robin is nice and it’s unisex which is nice.

I like names like River, Forrest, Rain if those are considered nature.

Ginger on

I adore nature names. Specifically Robin or Robyn. I think Sparrow is lovely and refreshing. It harkens the male name Spiro—-very close in my opinion. Not sure what all the chirping is all about. Sometimes I believe it’s what’s expected and unfortunately people fall into the trap of The Reaction Hype.

Deborah on

Love the fact that they put thought into naming him. Now I have seen the meaning behind it in this article it makes perfect sense.

I only hope I can be as inventive when coming up with a name.

Ems on

I wonder if Midnight is somehow after DJ AM (who would usually begin his set at midnight).

Mia on

I love these types of articles!

Alicia on

I love the names River and Rose.

Brandi on

I really like James Midnight. Still don’t care for Sparrow although I am sure it will grow on me as we start to see him develop his personality. I do appreciate that the Maddens kept with a theme.

Brooklyn on

This more relates to the Maddens, but for baby names I love, I’ve always used James and Kate for middle names! It’s always been Everleigh Kate and Kayden James. So I thought that was funny. As for nature names, I like them but as middle names only…Summer, Robyn, Autumn, Rain, River, Forrest.

TNT on

Sounds like a girl’s name – a little “wimpy” for a boy. It makes me think a frail, little child.

ABG on

I love the name Sparrow, but I do think it sounds feminine.

Harlow is also a very pretty name. Patricia Arquette has a daughter named Harlow who is probably about seven years older than Nicole Richie’s little girl. You don’t hear Patricia Arquette getting credit for the name though, or have I missed it?

Lis on

Like I said on the other post, I think it sounds like Joel and Nicole are trying way too hard. Harlow (in my opinion) has the best celeb baby name in Hollywood, and I guess they felt “pressure” to come up with an equally great name. But it’s just a bit much. And I agree with others who think Sparrow is somewhat a feminine name for a boy…

Corrie on

I agree with ems…have to wonder if Midnight has something to do with DJ AM, who was Nicole’s ex-fiance. As for the nature names, I love them. When (and if, hopefully when!) I have kids of my own, I would certainly consider one.

Catca on

Well, the most important thing is that Nicole and Joel appear to be devoted parents to Harlow and I’m sure will be to Sparrow as well. I love Harlow Winter Kate and I also love the James Midnight name. It’s unique without being a problem for the child having to live with (I’m looking at you Gwyneth – never name a girl something edible and worse yet, apple with martin just sounds like a mixed drink on top of the crudeness of being edible). I don’t think Johnny Depp’s character makes Sparrow more masculine. A sparrow is a tiny, delicate bird and Johnny Depp’s character is more androgynous than masculine. Having said that, I think it pairs well with Harlow and don’t think it sounds like outdated twins at all.

Leto(Gaia's mom) on

My daughters name means ‘earth’ so I guess that I used an earthy name. Curious how one becomes a “name expert”, that concept seems uetterly ridiculous to me as no ones opinion on a name is more valid than the next. Its a preference.

The name they chose for harlow to me was quite nice, but I don’t like Sparrow at all.congrats to them both.

Allie-Rose on

Sparrow James Midnight sure is an unusual name, but I’m not particularly bothered by it. The first thing that crossed my mind when I read the name was the similarity in sound with Harlow, then of course I thought of Johnny Depp’s character. Midnight sure is an interesting choice, which I personally believe it to be more related to Sparrow’s time of birth than to DJ AM. I could be wrong but I think if Nicole wanted to name her son after DJ AM, she would have simply called him Adam.

The last thing that struck my mind was how happy Joel and Lionel must be. Reading Nicole and Joel had a boy reminded me of that interview Nicole and Lionel (and Harlow!) did with Larry King a few months ago and Nicole saying Joel and Lionel were prepping each other. These two must definitely be elated!

Kristi on

I’m anxious to hear what Nicole and Joel have to say about why they chose the name Sparrow James Midnight…not what the baby name expert says. The name is really starting to grow on me!

Jenna on

im partial to nature names. River, Rain, Summer mostly (Iris especially if that counts). But i do love Pheonix too. And although i would never name my child it.. Falcon – after a mischeivious childlike character in a book i once read.

alice jane on

I don’t know that I’d choose a nature name as a first name, but definitely a middle name. I like River, Rain, Autumn, Summer, Forrest, Winter, Willow, etc, and flower names like Lily, Rose, Violet, Iris, etc… This strays from nature, but I think Ireland is a really beautiful name, a la Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger’s daughter. It makes me think of the Irish countryside.

The names Sparrow and Midnight aren’t names I’d choose for my own child, like I might choose Harlow or Winter, but I do think it’s a nice name that works well with Harlow. I just wonder, if Nicole and Joel go on to have more children, if they’ll continue with the “ow” theme or choose a different style of name.

Shannon on

I really love nature names, River, Rain, and Forrest the most. I was never able to use them, b/c dad didn’t agree! I also love music names-Melody, Lyric, and Cadence especially!

SouthernBelle on

I’m not overly enthusiastic about some nature names, like some others but, either way, wouldn’t use them for my own child. I prefer them as middle names, though, if they are used. I’m not crazy about the unusual spelling of nature names to the point that they are almost unrecognizable, as in some names I’ve heard/seen (like Raynne, Rainn, Ryver, Raynebow, Honeyblossom, etc.) When I first heard the name Sparrow, I thought of a songbird (think band, musician, singer, etc. – a la Madden Brothers), followed by Captain Jack Sparrow, but the name sounds so delicate that I would think it to be a girl’s name…just not a strong-sounding boy’s name, in my opinion. I wouldn’t name a child Midnight, but if they are going to incorporate it in the child’s name, I think they put it in the best place…as one of the middle names. James, of course, is traditional and I love traditional names. All in all, I think I would have really taken to the name if Sparrow had been something else, with them keeping the James Midnight…that’s very masculine and unusual. But, at the end of the day, he is their child, I’m so happy he is safe and healthy and have nothing but congratulations to all on the birth of a precious little son, brother, grandson, nephew and baby boy. I, too, would love to hear THEIR special meaning behind the name, not some name “expert” who is just guessing or expressing her/his opinion.

Jessi on

I think that it is too matchy with Harlow’s name, but it isn’t my child.

I like River, Willow, Oakley, Lily, Rose, Autumn, Amarylis, Rain, Iris, Aloe, Poppy.

I like Harlow, but not quite a fan of Sparrow.

Shelley on

I love nature names. I have a 20-month-old boy named River. Everyone seems to love it, we’re complimented on it all the time. I love nature names because I think they are different without being too “out there”.

Ava on

I don’t think Sparrow sounds masculine at all – quite the opposite. I think it sounds very feminine.

ANNA on

I really like the name Autumn for a girl, I think Sparrow James Midnight is a pretty cool name but Sparrow is a bit too close to Harlow imo

JMO on

I know of someone who named their daughter River…I much prefer it on a boy though. I’ve also met an Ocean. I also know of someone who named their child Rainy and I know a Summer and an Autumn (which I find cute).

I have to add that Skye is a very pretty name as well.

Ming on

I love what the Ritchie-Maddens named their son. Just like someone mentioned before it is refreshing to hear something so different but not outrageous. It’s seems like it would be cool to grow up with a name that is different from all of the Jacks, Williams and Jasons in school. Nicole seems like a real earth mother hippie type so she probably wanted her babies names to reflect that. I love Harlow & Sparrow’s names, and I don’t they needed to come up with something different after Harlow’s birth like someone said earlier. Everyone’s choice in baby names is different.

Sammy-xx on

I wondered if Nicole and Joel were going to name their baby after Michael Jackson and DJ AM, maybe Michael as a middle name as that was Adams. So maybe Midnight is their way of honnoring AM.
I really like the name Sparrow, I dont think it femminine at all. Maybe because I just think of Jack Sparrow when I hear it.
James is one of my favourite names and if I can my son will definaitly be called James or have it as a middle name, it was my Grandfathers name.

I love double middle names, especially when one of them is quirky.
Like Harlow WINTER Kate, Sparrow James MIDNIGHT, Zuma Nesta ROCK.

Ratty on

If they have another son, they could call him Shadow, and another daughter they could call Willow in keeping with the ‘ow’ theme.

Not so much a fan of the nature names, as I don’t view many of them as ‘names’ per se, but descriptive words used as names (though you could probably argue that about anything – just my opinion!). I prefer mythological and literary names, personally, but to each their own. I have a second cousin called Storme Winter, with brothers Jade and Steele – my mum always said that her cousin read too many romance novels! LOL!

Ilana Lubling on

I think “Midnight” is for the time of night the baby was born(they did announce that it was in the middle of the night), in keeping with Winter for the January birthday of Harlow.

Satara on

Congrats to Nicole and Joel for naming their son Sparrow! Sparrow is the name of my one year old daughter!

Erica on

I will Echo Gaia’s mom. Linda’s comments are interesting, but unless she has asked the families directly isn’t she just guessing about the meaning behind the choice of a name? For all we know Sparrow has nothing to do with POTC and the Maddens chose it for its biblical reference (His eye is on the sparrow). In any case I flat out disagree that Sparrow is a masculine name. Sparrow is a very delicate sounding name for a very delicate looking creature.

More on topic: I love earthy, nature names that aren’t TOO pretentious or trendy. I’d use Wren, Winter or Lark in a heartbeat. I like the name River too but that’s become quite commonplace. I have always loved Soleil Moon Frye’s first and middle names–and they fit her perfectly. :)

christina on

I agree w/the article that saying “Harlow and Sparrow” together for the next 50 years will be difficult…they are just too similar for my taste.

urbanadventurertales on

I agree with Erica and Gaia. Sparrow does seem feminine! But the middle names are masculine, so it evens it out a bit.

I LOVE Harlow’s name and was a little disappointed with Sparrow. But it’s not a terrible name by any means.

Congrats to the happy family :)

kp on

Congrats to them, and to each their own…

but I would love to be a fly on the wall in elementary school when he is explaining to his friends/classmates, “no really, I’m named for a pirate, not a little bird!”. poor little guy is going to get so teased!

Mellissa Redman on

I can’t believe that everyone had to act to nasty yesterday that this extra article had to be published. A child’s name should not have to be “explained” because the mothers of America don’t like it.

Sarah on

This name expert has some nerve calling other nature/bird related names that aren’t wholly unusual “generic”. They really have “experts” for everything these days…

Anna on

Lovely explanation however, it’s a no from me :) Growing up in Hollywood though, I am sure it wont be a big deal :)

America on

i guess its a name that grows on you

dee on

I honestly don’t think Sparrow sounds feminine or masculine. To me it’s like the name Kelley it can go either way. But I do love his name and one less Kayden or Jackson is even better.

Sadie on

I am surprised at all the posters who thought Nicole and Joel would name their son after DJ AM. Of course his death was tragic, but that doesn’t change the fact he was Nicole’s ex-fiance. I don’t know if it would be suitable for Joel to name his son after the guy Nicole almost married!!

M on

-ow and -ow is a little much for me, just like giving all children the same first initials is a little much. To each her own. At least all of those names are spelled appropriately.

I really dislike double middle names. It’s a giant mouhtful and almost always sounds awkward to me. It seems that often times it’s a dumping ground for tributes and names too quirky to be a first name.

Emmy on

Small note: Spero means “I hope” in Latin hence the oft-repeated phrase “Dum spiro, spero” (While I breathe, I hope). While the name is not a favorite of mine (and yes, I know my opinion doesn’t count in this matter) I’d like it a lot more if it was Spero (the latin form) instead of Sparrow (the bird).

BTW: naming a child after a recent blockbuster movie character is an odd move ( and a bit 14 yr-oldish) but at least the child isn’t named after an artist or author the parents choose to make themselves sound deep and literary, when in fact they’ve never seen or read that person’s work. The rise of the names Emerson & Tennyson annoy me in this way, but again that’s just my opinion and people can name their children however they’d like.

Joy on

My oldest child’s name is Abigail Robin. My ex liked the name Abigail and I liked the name Robin. Simple as that. It’s too bad his name couldn’t have been James Sparrow. I love the name James.

Tina. on

i think her names are cool. i like River for a boy because of River Phoenix also Rain is cool for a girl. or Meadow.

Samantha on

I think the “meaning” behind the names will mean more coming from them. I don’t need someone else to tell me what they THINK the meaning behind their choice is. Anyway, all that matters is that it obviously DOES have meaning to Nicole and Joel, it doesn’t matter what it is. As long as they love the name, no one else has to.

S on

I agree with Samantha!

Shell on

I thougth it was odd at first butI’m gettingused to it. 21 yrs ago I gave my daughter two middle names. The hospital thought I was nuts. lol

Angela Ward on

I thought Midnight and Winter could be related to their time of birth, as Harlow was born in January and People stated in their report that Sparrow was born in the wee hours, hence the Midnight. I think it’s awesome either way! :)

Elby on

Clearly what a parent names their child is their decision and no-one else’s (though we do all like to judge ;)), I don’t like the name Sparrow but it’s not up to me so…..
I like flowery names but not naturey names like River, Rain, etc. All my children have 2 middle names but it doesn’t seem that out there to me -I have 2 middle names, both my siblings do, my mum, her sister and brother do, her other brother has 3, all but 2 of my cousins do. It would be weirder if they only had 1 middle name in my family.

Sophia on

I expected Joel and Nicole to chose another “classic” name with perhaps similar themed middle names to Harlow’s. I find the -ow on both children a bit much, but, of course, they are not my children. I really like the three names trend (for want of a better word) and I also like that one of each Harlow and Sparrow’s middle names is traditional and one is more out there. I have to say, I much prefer Harlow Winter Kate to Sparrow James Midnight, but I’m sure he’s a beautiful, loved baby and that’s all that matters :)

kaitlin on

I love the name Sparrow! But all the same, not everyone uses their first given name as their name. My cousin who is milton cory goes by cory, while his dad goes by milton. He is not a jr either. Harlow and Sparrow have ‘normal’ names in their name so they could go by that. I don’t see the big deal is with the name game anyway. What Angela Ward says is probably true espically if you take the winter and midnight out of their names.

stef on

Sparrows also used to be coveted for their ability to fly freely in and out of the temples- so sparrows often represent Freedom. I think if you look at it that way, it is actually a pretty masculine name.

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