In ‘The Lone Ranger,’ is Tonto really speaking Comanche?

In a scene from the new “The Lone Ranger” movie, Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger turns to his Comanche sidekick, Johnny Depp’s Tonto, and asks a question that’s been bedeviling fans and linguists since the series first came on the radio in 1933: What does kemosabe, Tonto’s nickname for the masked man of justice, actually mean?

Theories on kemosabe’s origin have ranged from the name of a summer camp attended by Fran Striker, the writer of the series, to an Indian-ish term for “faithful friend,” to a corruption of the Spanish phrase “quien no sabe”—he who doesn’t understand. In this summer’s version, Tonto makes his own suggestion: “Wrong brother,” he says, referring to a running joke that the Ranger’s brother would have made a better hero.

Kemosabe is just part of

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