THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO: WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? AND WAS HIS SIDEKICK REALLY ‘STUPID’?
I was reviewing my old Spanish textbooks from university the other day, trying to find something productive to do whilst looking for work during my summer months leading up to going back to College to study Social Work. I decided that since I was only working part time and spent a lot of my spare time in spiritual contemplation going to Mass, in prayer or reading, that it was a natural fit that I should pull out some old textbooks and review my Spanish, which, after all, I’d been somewhat remiss at studying assiduously in College and university in my younger days, seeing that these had been electives and that I’d therefore expended less of my academic efforts at attempting to get a good mark in the course, at least that’s the tack I’d taken at the time and had since regretted it.
My first course in Spanish in college I’d gotten a B and so had continued in the same vein ten years later as a mature student at university, getting a B in both my Elementary Spanish courses. When I took Intermediate Spanish I in my final semester at the University of Ottawa in the winter of 1996, it fell, of all times, on a Friday morning at 8:30 a.m.! Just think, it was every student’s ‘path of least resistance/avoid having to take Friday morning classes’ nightmare scenario, and during the winter to boot, when it was pitch dark until at LEAST 7:00 a.m. every morning, making getting out of the old fart sack all that much more difficult, especially for a 30 ish year old psychiatric survivor who, at the time, hadn’t yet discovered the saving graces of the correct anti-deppressant, diet, exercise and abstinence from all forms of psychotropic substances.
So long story short, I got a C in Intermediate Spanish I, OK? But I passed, but not with a good enough grasp of the vocabulary to know what the word ‘tonto’ meant. All of a sudden I’m reviewing my textbook and there’s the Lone Ranger’s sidekick’s name at the bottom of the page in the vocabulary section! So I said to myself, ‘wait a minute, what does the Lone Ranger’s sidekick have to do with this exercise?’ So luckily for me, I still had my pretty good Spanish/English dictionary and I looked up ‘tonto.’ I was flabbergasted. It means ‘silly, dumb or stupid!’
So basically, every time the Lone Ranger called his sidekick ‘Tonto’ over to his side for assistance he was in essence saying ‘Hey dummy, come here’, or worse yet ‘hey you dumb Indian, come here, I need your help.’ Whereas Tonto always called the Lone Ranger ‘Kemo Sabe’ which meant ‘trusted friend.’ Not exactly a relationship of equals I’d say. It makes me kind of wonder about who was really the ‘dumb’ one in all this? I mean the Lone Ranger went prancing around on a dashing white stallion which he would egg on by yelling out ‘Hi Yo Silver’ as he dashed off gallantly with his VERY masculine-looking leather mask and dashing western dress shirt to go nail the bad guys.
Whereas Tonto usually was dressed up like his Native Indian self and came across as more authentic, despite the studio depicting him as speaking in pidgin English. I guess pop cultural icons really are a matter of time and space and can change with time as well, making them, well, not as iconic as we might have once thought them to be.
Well, just some random thoughts about the Lone Ranger and Tonto, about being ‘dumb’ and trying to ‘Get Smart’ as time goes on. Never thought that pulling my old Spanish books out of mothballs would arouse such musings. I’m glad I didn’t ‘86’ them or ever find me a ‘99’ to keep me company because otherwise I’d have never had had the spare time and opportunity to devote my time and energy to the contemplation of such Divine Mysteries as the origins of obscure Spanish words.
I’m sure I’ll have just as much fun pursuing knowledge and wisdom once my semester gears up and I truly become a scholar once again in an official capacity. This time, though I’ll be sure to get all straight As in my courses!