Another take on 'Tonto'

Geoff Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Mon Feb 18 03:09:17 UTC 2008

I'm apparently the only person in this august body who has a distinctly
different memory of the reason the sidekick was called 'Tonto'.  I
distinctly remember an episode in the fifties/sixties (not sure when) in
which the origins of both the Lone Ranger and Tonto were explained.  The
Lone Ranger was the last of a squad of Texas Rangers who was wiped out
(although I don't remember now how or why, there was something
dishonorable about the event).  He was injured, and nursed back to
health by Tonto, who was a identified as an outcast from a tribe who had
been rejected by his fellow Indians as being 'stupid', and he adopted
the name 'Tonto' as a badge of honor.  It was explicitly stated that
both men were outcasts or remnants, or maybe both, and each had his own
reason for rejecting society and adopting odd names.  There was no
question that Tonto knew what his name meant, and that it had been given
to him by whatever Native American tribe rejected him.
Does anyone else remember this?


Geoffrey S. Nathan <geoffnathan at>

Faculty Liaison, Computing and Information Technology,
and Associate Professor of English, Linguistics Program
Phone Numbers (313) 577-1259 or (313) 577-8621
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI, 48202

The American Dialect Society -

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