Indians speaking like Tarzan

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,417
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#1
I'm sure you all know how Native Americans speak in movies - using the 3rd person and infinitive verb forms all the time, describing white man's contraptions too complicated for them to understand with frases like "fire stick" for guns or "fire water" for whiskey and so on. Basically, they all seem to speak like Winnetou. Running deer live on land for many moons before white man come and stuff like that. For some reason this reminds me of Tarzan ...

Is this something Karl May made up and everyone else adopted because they thought it was true or did Natives really speak English like that? I'd think the ones who did could speak English either well, broken or not at all but probably wouldn't speak in this stereotypical way.2 From what I gather they'd really make hand signs while speaking because this was an actual sign language used for trade and would be helpful when dealing with people from different tribes. Would they use it when speaking to Europeans/Americans too?
 
Oct 2012
509
#3
I'm sure you all know how Native Americans speak in movies - using the 3rd person and infinitive verb forms all the time, describing white man's contraptions too complicated for them to understand with frases like "fire stick" for guns or "fire water" for whiskey and so on. Basically, they all seem to speak like Winnetou. Running deer live on land for many moons before white man come and stuff like that. For some reason this reminds me of Tarzan ...

Is this something Karl May made up and everyone else adopted because they thought it was true or did Natives really speak English like that? I'd think the ones who did could speak English either well, broken or not at all but probably wouldn't speak in this stereotypical way.2 From what I gather they'd really make hand signs while speaking because this was an actual sign language used for trade and would be helpful when dealing with people from different tribes. Would they use it when speaking to Europeans/Americans too?
I am not sure if Karl May is that popular in english speaking countries.
 
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Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
15,445
Welsh Marches
#4
That's true, his books are little known in the English-speaking world, and they would not have affected the popular view there of American Indians spoke.
 
Aug 2012
1,518
#5
Well, didn't some Native leaders actually write memoirs? I think Blackhawk did, and from what I've read of them he was perfectly capable of writing articulate and understandable English. It would seem that it's just a crude Hollywood caricature to make them look primitive and uneducated.


Here's a link to his memoirs, so you can read them for yourself!
https://web.archive.org/web/2007071....com/IllinoisAlive/files/wi/htm1/wi000002.cfm
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,838
Portugal
#6
I am not sure if Karl May is that popular in english speaking countries.
Out of topic: Not only in English speaking countries. I don’t think that he was translated in Portugal. The only time that I saw a May’s book was in a fair of old stuff and it was in Portuguese from Brazil.
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,417
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#7
Ok, so Karl May isn't the source of this. But that's not the main focus of my question, I merely used him as a refference because I read he portrayed the Natives in a patronising way, as noble savages but such who need the white man's guidance. Winnetou was somewhat popular here, I guess, they even filmed the movies in Yugoslavia afaik. I haven't read any of his work myself though ...

A lot of westerns show this kind of talk. So where does this originate from?
 
Nov 2011
8,845
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
#8
Forget Karl May or even Zane Grey--the stereotype was created by J. Fennimore Cooper and perpetuated by Hollywood. In the silent era during interaction between Native Americans (and African tribesmen and South Sea Island cannibals and cavemen for that matter) and White people, actors were given exaggerated hand movements to support the brief subtitles--that never seem to go away and Indian sign language somehow crept into mythology (and ham acting).
Here's another trope--why does the Red Indian brave or the African chief always have a booming deep bass voice? Where are all the limp-wristed fairy Indians and Africans with their lisps and falsetto voices? "oooh White man speaks with forked tongue---bitch!"

Of course, as a native speaker of the language of the Angels (God only speaks English--watch any biblical film) it is well known that benighted and ignorant natives are always able to understand pidgin English shouted in a slow manner using their own accents--even if those ignorant natives are French, German or Italian.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zV1zK8zRCPo
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,417
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#9
Forget Karl May or even Zane Grey--the stereotype was created by J. Fennimore Cooper and perpetuated by Hollywood. In the silent era during interaction between Native Americans (and African tribesmen and South Sea Island cannibals and cavemen for that matter) and White people, actors were given exaggerated hand movements to support the brief subtitles--that never seem to go away and Indian sign language somehow crept into mythology (and ham acting).
Here's another trope--why does the Red Indian brave or the African chief always have a booming deep bass voice? Where are all the limp-wristed fairy Indians and Africans with their lisps and falsetto voices? "oooh White man speaks with forked tongue---bitch!"

Of course, as a native speaker of the language of the Angels (God only speaks English--watch any biblical film) it is well known that benighted and ignorant natives are always able to understand pidgin English shouted in a slow manner using their own accents--even if those ignorant natives are French, German or Italian.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zV1zK8zRCPo
Thanks, so Mr Cooper is the source of this.

However, methinks Mel Gibson would disagree on the God only speaks English part, his Jesus movie sports a couple of different tongues (forked or not) ... ;) :D
 
Oct 2015
890
Norway
#10
A friend of mine actually witnessed US soldiers speaking to non-English speakers in the former Yogoslavia in the 1990's. They just spoke louder and slower, and according to my friend it worked up to a point :lol:
 

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