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312384.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:04 am Reply with quote

We discussed, but did we ever use, the Gen Ig about “Kemo Sabe”? post 19693

312394.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:23 am Reply with quote

I don't think we used that, and it does tie in with all the smoke signal stuff maybe. Only thing is, don't you need to be 50 to remember the Lone Ranger?

312402.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:27 am Reply with quote

I'm aware of kemo sabi and the lone ranger; not sure why though, I don't think I've ever watched an episode.

312406.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:29 am Reply with quote

To remember, perhaps, but not to have heard of. I think he's reasonably well established in popular culture still. I'd merrily set off klaxons for kemo sabe, and I'm only halfway to 50.

312412.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:38 am Reply with quote

Mat and I will explain. I'll start.


A man in a mask and his faithful Indian friend Tonto are riding along. Gunshots are heard in the distance.

TONTO: Gunfire, Kemo Sabe!

LONE RANGER (for it is he): Yes, Tonto. Sounds like somebody needs our help! Hiyo, Silver!

They gallop off.

They come over a hill. Some men who haven't shaved are shooting at a chap who's behind a rock, injured. The Lone Ranger and Tonto gallop towards him, shooting at the gunmen. The gunmen high-tail it (ie, run away). LR and Tonto dismount, look at the wounded chap.

TONTO (watching the escaping gunmen): We go after them?

LONE RANGER: No, Tonto - this man needs our help more.

Over to you, Mat.

312423.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:51 am Reply with quote

Ooh, I'd not seen that one before - but Mythcon avoided the klaxons!

The suggestion that kemo sabe means "soggy bush" appeared out of nowhere in one of the editions of Trivial Pursuit, and no one has ever been able to find a scrap of evidence for it.

The other suggestion which appears from time to time is that it means "chicken shit". That one is so much, umm, chicken shit.

The matter was eventually solved by a guy called Rob Malouf, who these days is a professor at San Diego State but was a grad student at Stanford when he put this one to bed. Mr Malouf was flicking through A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe* when he discovered a word giimoozaabi, meaning "to peek", or "he who peeks". That isn't so very far from "trusty scout", which is what James Jewell said all along. The way that indigenous languages are written has changed a fair bit in the last hundred years, and giimoozaabi could easily have been written Kee Moh Sah Be a hundred years ago.

Written up in several places on the Interweb; for instance at Straight Dope.

Incidentally, Jay Silverheels was Canadian and Mohawk. So he really was an aboriginal North American, but the name Jay Silverheels was pure fantasy; his real name was Harold Smith.

* Nichols, J D and Nyholm E (1995) A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis MN.

In Canada we try to avoid exonyms and would prefer to call the language Anishinaabe these days, but the name Ojibwe is still commonly used. The show identified Tonto as a member of the Potawatomi nation, and the Potawatomi language is closely related to Anishinaabe.

312430.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 5:58 am Reply with quote

There's a Far Side cartoon which depicts the Lone Ranger in his dotage reading through an Ojibwe-English dictionary and discovering that it mean's "a horse's ass".

"One who peeks" is capable of being interpreted in a less favourable way than "Trusty Scout", mind you.

312440.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:24 am Reply with quote

Tis true, and a key element of that word is the prefix giimoo-, which means "in a secret manner".

But it seems unlikely to mean a man who secretly watches the female Anishinaabe getting undressed, simply because nakedness wasn't a taboo in traditional Anishinaabe society.

312441.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:25 am Reply with quote

After my Mythcon on the subject, many letters were received by um-Fortean Times (which reminds me - does anyone know why “um” became a ubiquitous prefix in mock-American Indian speech?).

I’ll try to summarise the correspondence, for completeness um-sake.

The first Euros encountered by Apaches were Spanish. The Apaches adopted Spanish as a lingua franca in their dealings with whites. Thus “quien no sabe” (no-one knows) is “an obvious epithet for a man who wished to conceal his real name.” Jay Silverheels (or Harold, as we now know him!) was fluent in Spanish; he first used quien no sabe - say it quickly and it becomes kemo sabe - as an ad lib, and the director liked it.

Tonto is Spanish for silly, and “el qui no save” is “the man who doesn't know.”

Iron Eyes Cody, actor and friend of Silverheels, says in his autobiography that Tonto is Spanish for crazy or idiot, and was used by American Indians to describe any Indian who attempts to work within the white man’s system. Kimsabe was a portmanteau word from the Pueblo “kima” (meaning hello) and the Spanish “sabe” meaning understand. (Hello-understand??)

Que mas sabe is Spanish for “who knows more,” which contrasts with Tonto meaning stupid.

This from a Californian who had studied Ojibwe/Chippewa at college under a teacher who had grown up on the same Canadian reservation as Harold Silverheels, and had known him socially in younger days. He said that the pronunciation was more like “Giimo Saabe,” and it meant “one who looks through sneakily.” This might be taken as a reference to his mask.

So my money is on suze’s explanation.

312454.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:45 am Reply with quote

Jay Silverheels (or Harold, as we now know him!) was fluent in Spanish; he first used quien no sabe - say it quickly and it becomes kemo sabe - as an ad lib, and the director liked it.

That bit only makes sense if Harold played Tonto in the radio series, which I don't think he did.

312458.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:49 am Reply with quote

Fran Striker was the most astoundingly prolific writer. I can't find the article on this at the moment, but his output was really quite astonishing.

312476.  Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:17 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
That bit only makes sense if Harold played Tonto in the radio series, which I don't think he did.

No he didn't. Tonto on radio was read by a guy called John Todd, who was a Detroit rep actor of Irish origin. (He read some of the bit parts as well, this being radio.)

Harold Silverheels was from Brantford ON, which is best known for being the city where Alexander Graham Bell didn't invent the telephone.

On the face of it, it's not especially likely that either of them spoke a great deal of Spanish.

328800.  Fri May 02, 2008 5:04 am Reply with quote

Current issue of FT (FT236, p21) features what is thought to be the world’s oldest cartoon - arguably, I suppose, the world’s oldest “moving picture”.

It’s a 5,200-year-old Iranian bowl. It was found 30 years ago by Italian archaeologists but, incredibly, it has only just been noticed that if the bowl were spun rapidly “and viewed through a slit” (I can feel a Jo Brand joke coming on here ...) the images of a goat which decorate the bowl’s circumference will produce an animation effect, as in a zoetrope. In this ancient cartoon, the goat leaps to get some leaves from a tree.

Link: Firsts

349613.  Sun Jun 01, 2008 5:47 am Reply with quote

Whoever's doing the film/fame show, I don't know if you were going to do the Cheese Mite censorship question, but it seems that the film in question is being shown at the Science Museum:

You can see the movie here:

It's probably worth someone heading up there to have a look.

349787.  Sun Jun 01, 2008 1:08 pm Reply with quote

Well found. It evidently wasn't censored, though. Here's the text:
In 1903, at the Alhambra Music Hall in London's Leicester Square - now an Odeon - the public got the chance to see something truly disgusting.

Less than a decade into the cinema age, a one-minute film of mites crawling in a piece of cheese, filmed down a microscope was enough to provoke gasps and laughter from a stunned audience.

The film, made by Charles Urban and Francis Martin Duncan, marked the birth of the popular science documentary with startling imagery.

According to Urban, the mites were "crawling and creeping about in all directions, looking like great uncanny crabs, bristling with long spiny hairs and legs".

"Cheese Mites was the first scientific film made for public consumption," Dr Boon says. "These were early days for cinema. The audience was highly attuned to going after exciting new entertainments.

"They enjoyed seeing something rather revolting."

The film was unlikely to have pleased anybody in the dairy industry, but it did have a lasting effect of sales of cheap microscopes, which would often include packets of mites as a test sample.


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