The Baby Name Buff: Places I’ve Lived–Urbana, IL

As a fast-talking, quick-walking East-coast girl, born and bred, I never thought I would enjoy living in middle America. But spending a few years living in Kyle’s hometown of Champaign, Illinois definitely changed my mind! Together, the sister cities of Champaign and Urbana have a population of about 100,000 people and house the main campus of the University of Illinois. Because of the U of I, the C-U area is bursting with cultural amenities and fantastic food. And yet, C-U still somehow has a small-town feel, relaxing life pace, and almost no traffic. Add to that the beautiful, open fields and ocean-bowl sky that you get to see every time you drive just outside the city, and it becomes clear that the C-U area has so much more to offer than outsiders could possibly realize.

C-U also has much to offer in the way of baby names! Check out some of these great options inspired by my favorite Midwestern town and its surrounding areas.  


For obvious reasons, the American Midwest is not particularly known for its hiking opportunities. But, since hiking is my favorite leisure activity, I made sure to find and frequent the few great hiking spots near C-U. One of my top picks is Allerton Park, known not only for its gorgeous hiking trails but for its many sculptures and other unique landmarks throughout the park, including the Sunsinger sculpture (my fav), the Centaur sculpture, and the Fu dogs (Kyle’s fav). As a boys’ name, Allerton (Al-er-tin) has a sophisticated feel and many nickname options. 

One of my favorite in-town hiking spots in C-U is Busey Woods at the Anita Purves Nature Center. But while I like the sound of the boys’ name Busey (Byoo-see), the prevalence of Busey Bank throughout the Midwest could make this a strange choice. Also, this name will probably put people in mind of Gary Busey, one of the weirdest actors out there. But, if a kind of quirky name is what you’re going for, then perhaps Busey will fit the bill. I like Beau as a possible nickname option.

While many of Kyle’s most formative educational experiences took place prior to high school, during his time at Countryside School, Kyle also shares many great memories from his 9th – 12th grade years at Centennial High School. In particular, Centennial apparently has a world-class speech program, which is what led Kyle to petition for entry into this high school in the first place rather than attend the school for which he was originally zoned. As a boys’ name, Centennial (Sen-ten-ee-uhl) might initially seem a bit much. But everyone hopes their kid will live at least 100 years, so this name could be appropriate.  

Devonshire Drive is the lovely, tree-lined street where Kyle’s childhood home resides. In addition to Kyle’s own lifetime of positive memories of this place, I myself have had so many great times on this street: camping out in backyard tree fort on my first visit to Kyle’s home, regular Sunday dinners with Kyle’s parents during the years we lived in C-U, putting up the Snowflake Arch at Christmastime…the list goes on! As a boys’ name, Devonshire (Devin-shire) has a distinguished and decidedly-English feel. And while Devon is the obvious nickname, Evan, Vaugh, and Shire (my favorite) are other great nickname options.

If I could move one thing from the C-U area to our new home in Newport News, it would be…Kyle’s parents! But if I could move a second thing, it would be…our friends Matt and Susan (and their adorable son, Gideon). BUT, if I could move a THIRD thing, it would definitely be… Jarlings Custard Cup!!! This local gem has been serving delicious, homemade custard since 1983. But if you don’t believe me about how amazing this place is, perhaps you’ll listen to Custard Cup’s most famous admirer—Tom Hanks! One of Hanks’s brothers is a Professor at the U of I; when Jarling’s almost closed a couple years back because the proprietors were retiring, Hanks tweeted his sadness about the situation. Luckily, a group of investors from the U of I bought Custard Cup, and it is still alive and thriving to this day. As a possible baby name, Jarling (Jar-ling) could work for a boy or a girl. For a girl, I like Arli as a nickname. For a boy, I like Arlin. But Ling and (goodness forbid) Jar Jar are other possible options.

Meadowbrook Park is by far my favorite in-town park in the C-U area. One of this park’s distinguishing features is that it is a permanent art walk, with dozens of sculptures around the grounds. Meadowbrook is also a great place to view wildlife in the city. Kyle and I have seen quail, deer, rabbits, ten million red-winged blackbirds, a crayfish, turkeys, adorable wooly-bears, and many other animals on our walks around Meadowbrook. The girls’ name Meadow (Med-oh) is a bit more popular in the U.S. than most names I feature on this blog, and its increased use continues to this day; as of 2018, it was the #516 girls’ name.

Mira is a tiny, “unincorporated community” within Urbana. I can’t even find a listed population for this place, and I only ever knew about it because there’s a random sign for it on the corner of two pretty rural cross streets just at the edge of town. Like the girls’ name Meadow, Mira (Meer-uh) is a bit more common than most names featured on this blog and continues to rise in popularity; it was #465 on the U.S. top girls’ name list in 2018. For this reason, I prefer a variant spelling of this name—Meara—a name previously discussed on my SNL edition blog post this past April.

While Morrissey Park doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of Meadowbrook Park, it is still a favorite of mine because it is within walking distance of Kyle’s house. I’ve enjoyed many rousing sessions of tennis at this park, where I repeatedly got my ass completely handed to me by both Kyle and his dad. The boys’ name Morrissey (More-iss-ee) has a very strong hipster vibe, most likely because of the obvious association with the lead singer from The Smiths.  And the nickname Morris is just adorable.

During our years in the C-U area, Kyle and I lived at two different places: one on Cureton Drive and one on Pond Street. These two places were only a few blocks from one another and shared the same main cross street: Mumford. Like Morrissey, the boys’ name Mumford (Mum-ferd) has a musical association to the band Mumford and Sons, another hipster-ish group. Ford would be a fun and quirky nickname.

Like I noted earlier in this blog, Champaign and Urbana are (contiguous) sister cities. But what I did not know when I first moved to the C-U area is that there is another small town that bleeds right into C-U: Savoy! The first time I heard about it from Kyle, I don’t know why, but I thought of it as this kind of mystical, Atlantis-like place that I didn’t know actually existed. And while it turns out Savoy is actually just another run-of-the-mill suburban locale, we definitely spent some good times there—shopping at Goodwill, going to the movies, eating at the cool local donut shop, or even roller-skating at the roller rink. (Yes, roller rink—look it up, millennials!) Savoy (Suh-voy) strikes me as a nice gender-neutral name option.

Bonus Names

Cureton (Cure-uh-ton)
Fisher (Fish-er)
Hessel (Hess-uhl)
Leverett (Lev-er-et)
Mattis (Mad-iss)
Monticello (Mont-ih-sell-oh OR Mont-ih-chell-o)
Ogden (Og-din)
Pennfield (Penn-field)
Philo (Phy-lo)
Porgy (Por-gee)
Robeson (Roe-bih-sin)
Tolono (Tuh-loh-no)
Tuscola (Tus-coe-luh)
Urbana (Uhr-ban-uh)
Vermillion (Ver-mill-yon)

Photo credit: Raymond Cunningham

Author: thebabynamebuff

Hi, I'm Vickie. I'm a baby name enthusiast, and I'm excited to share and discuss with others the unique baby names I find. Besides talking and writing about baby names all day long, I also enjoy spending time with family, hiking, astronomy, reading (mostly science fiction and dystopias), and all things Star Trek. (Are you noticing a theme?) I currently live in Champaign, IL with my husband, Kyle, and my son, Felix.

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