Another take on 'Tonto'

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Mon Feb 18 22:41:01 UTC 2008

I have a tape of the original radio broadcast of the episodes that Geoff and Jonathan allude to. I have played the tape numerous times for classes (usually to get the students to thinking about the "pidgin" features of Tonto's speech). I do not remember ANY explanation being given for Tonto's name--not by Tonto or by the narrator--much less an explanation involving the Spanish adjective "tonto." Unfortunately, I have not converted the tape to digital, so it is not in my computer & I am 600 miles away from the tape. I also do not at the moment have internet access; are transcripts of the original broadcasts not available online?

I will do further checking when I am able. My best guess is that Geoff is misremembering. However, it has been several years since I listened to my tape, so I suppose it could be I who is misremembering

I am quite sure about one point: LR did not select his name--Tonto gave it to him; and not because LR was an outcast, but simply because LR was the only Texas Ranger to survive the ambush.

At any rate, this appears to be an empirical issue that can be settled by consulting the historical record.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>

Date:         Mon, 18 Feb 2008 05:29:41
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] Another take on 'Tonto'

Just to respond to Geoff,

  I thnk I recall (hazily) seeing the Lone Ranger's "origin" episode on TV, but I know for sure that I read the story in illustrated kids' book form no later than 1954. The Texas Ranger detachment had been massacred in a blind canyon by the Butch Cavendish gang.
  Ranger Reed (can't recall his first name) barely survived. Tonto found him and nursed him back to health.

  I have no recollection, though, of Geoff's "take" on Tonto's naming,

  Finally - my last word on the subject - the only Tonto I'm much familiar with was Jay Silverheels on TV in the early to mid fifties.  He was taciturn, serious, smart, and dignified.


  Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Re: Another take on 'Tonto'

Unh. That probably right, kemosabe. (I'm not familiar with the TV
show, but, on radio, Tonto didn't have much to say beyond, "Unh. That
right, kemosabe" and "Get-um up, Scout!")

I *very* vaguely remember a version of this from 'Forties radio. The
only part that I clearly remember was that the Lone Ranger was
originally a Texas Ranger and that he and Tonto had become buddies
after Tonto had nursed the ranger back to health.

Be that as it may, I'm more than willing to accept your memory of how
things happened as the last word on this topic.


On Feb 17, 2008 10:09 PM, Geoff Nathan wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Geoff Nathan
> Subject: Another take on 'Tonto'
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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?
> Geoff
> --
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> 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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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