This Czechoslovakian surname of WHETSEL was originally derived from the given name VACLAV, rendered in Old Czech as VECESLAV. It is composed of the elements VECE (greater) and SLAV (glory). The name was borne by a tenth century duke of Bohemia who fought against a revival of paganism in his territory and after his death became patron saint of Bohemia. The name is also spelt WENZEL, WENTZEL, WITZEL, WOTZEL and WETZIG. 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. The acquisition of surnames in Europe during the past eight hundred years has been affected by many factors, including social class and social structure, naming practices in neighbouring cultures, and indigenous cultural tradition. On the whole, the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working classes and the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in more sparsely populated rural areas. These facts suggest that the origin of surnames is associated with the emergence of bureaucracies. As long as land tenure, military service, and fealty were matters of direct relationship between a lord and his vassals, the need did not arise for fixed distinguishing epithets to mark out one carl from another. But as societies became more complex, and as such matters as the management of tenure and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to have a more complex system of nomenclature to distinguish one individual from another reliably and unambiguously.
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