Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein Neukölln, Berlin 27 years old
Some describe their name as a beloved coat, something you treasure but is separate from you. But here in a sunny apartment off Sonnenallee in Neukölln, Jöran Mandik has a theory that when you look at a person, you can see their name on them.
“I was with a friend and I walked around, and four people in a row…three of them I got their name on the first try. One of them I needed three tries.”
We laughed in disbelief, but Jöran assured us it’s absolutely possible, especially with common names and when you’re familiar with the cultural associations.
“Jöran would be pretty hard to see on someone,” he says. “But you can see an Alex. You can totally see.”
Göran to Jöran
Jöran grew up in the north German state Schleswig-Holstein and admits that he can only test this theory on other Germans because he is the most familiar with the cultural associations. His own name Jöran would be harder to pinpoint on someone because despite looking German with the infamous umlaut, Jöran is a Swedish name misspelled.
The ö in the Swedish name is actually not an umlauted version of O like we understand it in the German language. It is regarded as a separate character and sounds like the “i” sound in the word “bird”, or the “ea” sound in “heard”. The Swedish letter Ö is also a one-letter word for an island, much like how the letter “I” in the English language also functions as a word for “me”.
Now I’m Jöran, misspelled and also mispronounced.”
In Sweden, Jöran’s name is spelled Göran as to align with the Swedish pronunciation, so his German parents opted for a ‘J’ instead: “People would be calling me “Gu-ran” and [my parents] didn’t like that so they just made it a ‘J’. Now I’m Jöran, misspelled and also mispronounced honestly.”
Nicknames, new names and second names
Since 2015, Jöran has been a regular host of the Berlin English news podcast Radiospätkauf and regularly introduces himself as Jörie (pronounced yur-ee) on the show. He says that he always has to repeat his full name, even with Germans, before people can remember it and that Jörie is just easier.
“Anglophones especially really struggle with pronouncing my name. So to them I’m just Jörie, like the throaty ‘r’ is just not there anymore.”
He knew this back from his time in Australia, and opted to adopt an easier and completely new name during his time down under.
“When I moved to Australia I was 19 and I knew my name would be hard to pronounce for people. So I decided before I flew in that I would just be called Josh and went by Josh for my first 3 months in Australia. I lived in Melbourne and everyone I knew, who I’m still friends with now, called me Josh at the time. It was surprisingly easy to switch to a different name.”
Today he associates the name positively with his time in Australia, but reflects (and in light of his amusing naming theory) that as a German, he didn’t know how to associate the name Josh properly. People told him the name was pretty boring and also biblical––things Jöran does not associate himself with.
For a second name, however, Jöran has given it some more thought. He doesn’t have one officially, but was inspired by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren and a long lineage of Franzs. Jöran Franz Mandik. How does that sound?
Associations vary depending on location, personal stories or even just the person themselves, and Jöran admits that his name theory is up for debate: “It is a bit silly to pin the personality of a person down to their name. Like our name is a cage and you cannot escape it. You’re stuck forever.”
But for his name personally, that association is still being formed: “There is no precedent, there is no Jöran role model. There was no ‘oompf’ behind that name. I have to create my own ‘oompf’.” He smiles and adds, “for future Jörans, I guess.”
The name Jöran is written with a “J” and the “ö” to fit German pronounciation. It was meant to be the Swedish name “Göran” and is regarded as the Scandinavian version of “George”––earth worker or man of the earth. The name also has Slavic origins from the word “gora” in Slovenian which means mountain or in relation to a name, a mountain man.