The surname CZERNIAK meaning 'Czech' was used in particular to distinguish a native or inhabitant of Bohemia, from Slovaks, Moravians and other ethnic groups. The word itself is of unknown but vigorously disputed etymology. The name has many variant spellings which include TSCHECH, TSCHACHE, CZECH, ECHT, CSEH, CZECHOWICZ and CHEKHOV. The modern state of Czechoslovakia is going through a transitional phase as a result of the fall of the Iron Curtain. Its various regions encompassed the medieval provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia. The first two of these, where the language properly called Czech is spoken, were heavily subject to German cultural and linguistic influence from the Middle Ages onwards, being administratively a Crownland of Austria for much of the time until Independence in 1918. This influence is reflected in the many Czech surnames derived from German, both from given names, and from vocabulary words. Occupational names are quite common in Czech as are nicknames, especially those referring to some physical feature. Many of the most common Czech surnames have the diminutive ending 'CEK', which is often found attached to these names. It is recorded that the Polish surname ECHT (meaning 'real' 'true' in modern German) was derived by deliberate alteration from CZECH, with official permission, after a man called CZECH had made an attempt on the life of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour.
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