This surname of GARFINKEL is a Jewish Ashkanzic ornamental name, or a nickname meaning 'carbuncle'. The name was originally derived from the Yiddish GORFINKL or the German KARFUNKEL (jewel, diamond), and was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form CARBUNCULUS. The word denoted both a red precious or semi-precious stone, especially a garnet or ruby cut into a rounded shape, or a large inflamed area of skin. Other spellings of the name include GORFUNKEL, GARFUNKEL, GORFUNKEL, KARFUNKEL, KARFUNKIEL and GURFINKIEL. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States and Israel in recent years. A notable member of the name is Harold GARFINKEL, born in 1917 the American sociologist, born in Newark, New Jersey. He was educated at Harvard University, and he taught briefly at Ohio State University, before moving in 1954 to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he remained until he retired in 1988. He is the founder of the sociological tradition of ethnemethodology, an approach to social science which focuses on the practical reasoning processes that ordinary people use, in order to understand and act within the social world. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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