Tyger, tyger

I’m always interested to hear how parents go about deciding on names for their kids. For Lee and me, it was a fairly simple process. We certainly didn’t agonise over a list of names for weeks or months at a stretch, like I’ve seen some people do.

Our surname is Gruben (German origin), and the only thing I insisted on was, if our baby was going to be a boy, that his first name start with the letter 'G'. For men, I like it when their first name and their surname start with the same letter. I think it looks strong on paper, and it usually rolls nicely off the tongue.

Lee's lineage is Norwegian and Portuguese, mine Dutch and British. For some reason, both of us seem to favour what I call ‘former Eastern Bloc names’ (if we had had a girl, her name would've been Milla). Anyway, fairly early on in our pregnancy, we were watching an episode of 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent'. At some point, Lee made a comment about Detective Goren, which he mistakenly pronounced, or I mistakenly heard as Goran. I immediately latched onto it and said that I thought it would make a cool name for our baby, if it was going to be a boy. 

A quick Google search showed that Goran is a Slavic name, meaning 'highlander' or 'a mountain man', someone who lives in the mountains. Lee and I agreed then and there that we both really liked the name, so when, on 21 October 2010, we found out ‘it’ was indeed going to be a ‘he’, the decision had already been made: Goran Gruben he would be! As far as pronunciation goes, we've chosen Gore-ran. Equal emphasis on both syllables, and no rolling of the ‘R’.

Then when it came to choosing his second name (I have one, Lee doesn’t, so it was less important to him than it was to me), I insisted that it was my decision to make as we had mutually stumbled upon and decided on our child's first name, and he would, by default, carry Lee’s surname. I have always loved the name Blake, which can be either a given name or a surname. Of Old English and Old Norse origins, it has several derivatives, the one I like most being ‘black’, as it evokes a sense of depth and strength – attributes I hope my son will possess. William Blake is also my favourite poet. 'The Sick Rose'  is the only poem I can remember from school and recite (almost) off by heart to this day. But it's 'The Tyger' which Blake is probably most famous for, kicking off with the iconic stanza:

Tyger tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Little did we know that this ‘tyger’ reference would have far greater significance in the months to come...

Although Goran was due to be born in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit (like his father), he arrived two months early, and was therefore born in - yip, you guessed it - the Year of the Tiger (like me). But wait, that’s not the end of it...

Every prem baby born before 32 weeks (Goran made his appearance at 30 weeks) is treated with Curosurf, a surfactant which quickly coats the alveoli in their under-developed lungs, stabilising them against collapse. And each of these babies receives a little soft toy from the drug company. When you walk into the NICU, one of the first things you notice is the myriad stuffed animals in each incubator, some brought by parents, others given as gifts by the drug company. There were four different types of Curosurf creatures that Lee and I counted in Netcare Olivedale Hospital’s NICU (where Goran spent the first 28 days of his life), and guess which one he just happened to be given? A tiger.

Pretty soon, my folks started referring to him as their ‘little tiger’, in reference to his fighting spirit and the miraculous progress he was making every day. (He weighed just 1.78kg at birth, and tipped the scales at a hefty 2.47kg when he was discharged four weeks later.)

And that, my friends, is the unabridged story of how Goran Blake got his name!


  1. Ahh well that nice story cleared up my question, in Serbia they pronounce it more like Gore-run with a slight roll to the r and more emphasis on the u....
    hope the little tiger is well today


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