Re: The name BIKEL #general


In a message dated 9/11/2006 1:05:13 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
jrw@... writes:

<< That story passed down by Theodore Bikel's grandfather [that the
family name was an acronym of a Biblical verse] struck me as
almost certainly a bubbe-mayse. So I googled Bikel as a Jewish
surname, and guess what? Here's what I got:

<< >Bikel. Either >from Bickel, the German for pickaxe, and denotes
someone who used this tool in his work. Or an acronym for Benei
Yisrael Kedoshim L'Adonai, "The Children of Israel are holy unto God." < >>

==>from which genealogists can learn a number of lessons
1. If a story or coincidence is too good to be true, it probably is
2. Don't trust family traditions that cover up a possible embarrassment
3. Don't trust an entertainer's story--certainly not a comedian's
4. Don't trust reports that google at you
5. Whenever you can, check a dictionary--and a gazetteer

Now for some facts:
a. German for pickaxe is Pickel. Bikel (or more likely Biggel) would be
the pronunciation in Franconia--but there's no evidence the Bickels
came >from there. Theodore/Meir Bickel was born in Vienna.
b. ShtettelSeeker lists lots of places in Austria, Poland, Czech Republic
and Germany that soundex as Bikel
c. Bichel is Yiddish for a booklet/little book--perhaps Bikel's ancestor
published them or hawked them [think of Mendel MocherSforim]
d. Buekel (pron Bickel) is German for hunchback.

==My bet is on d. "Why would anyone choose to be called in such
defamatory terms?" you might ask.

==The answer reinforces something I have mentioned often. Until they were
ordered to, Jews did not usually choose their surnames; their surnames were
imposed on them collectively by their neighbors and colleagues for purpose of
identification. Physical appearance was a major source for those surnames [sur
= additional].

==In past centuries, people were more realistic than we, and less squeamish.
They saw nothing wrong with recognizing physical reality, of calling someone
lame, parblind, deaf, or hunchbacked, any more than calling him by height or
girth or color of hair.

==And it would make poetic sense to explain a hunchback as a sign of
holiness in God

Michael Bernet, New York

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