Friday, June 02, 2006

We Be Loyal Scouts

My nine-year-old cousin recently attained the "WEBELOS" rank of Cub Scouting, and his achievement reminded me for the first time in decades of that peculiar term. I, for one, quit the Cub Scouts before achieving WEBELOS status (I retired at the "Bear" rating), it having dawned on me that paramilitary uniforms, special handshakes, and loyalty oaths often lead to rather disagreeable outcomes.

Like every good Cub, I knew what WEBELOS stood for: "We Be Loyal Scouts." As it turns out, the Boy Scouts of America claims the acronym actually expands to "We'll Be Loyal Scouts," but that's certainly not how my scout pack taught it. Indeed, any number of packs across the country use the former version, as you can see here (Lomira,WI), here (Stamford, CT), here (Fairfax,VA), here (Littleton, MA), here (Orlando, FL), and on numerous other sites.

Looking back, how offensive is that?! Not only is the word "WEBELOS" a crude pastiche of some nonspecific American Indian language, but it expands to a phrase rendered in grammar that can be described only as Tonto-Speak. Also, the substitution of "we be" for either "we will be" or "we are" will remind most listeners of the non-finite be morphology of African American Vernacular English, so the term may succeed in offending just about everyone.


  1. Isn't fake Indian OK as long as there's nothing gay about it?

  2. My thoughts exactly.....I figured it stood for something like "WE'll BE LOSing the battle with Satan if we ever kiss a boy!" or "WE'd BEtter LOSe this eyeliner before our pack leader sees us!"

  3. That's so weird - I go through my entire life never hearing the phrase WEBELOS, then I read your web site and it pops up on my TV. Synchronicity is a bitch.

    But seriously, once I figured out that Boy Scouts were not just the male version of the Girl Scouts (yes, I know they were started first), I lost all respect for them. The weird insistences on loyalty and purity, the homophobia ... what gives? Ditch the pseudo-fascist philosophy and return to the camping and knot-tying, guys.

  4. I briefly entertained the notion of wanting to join the scouts when I was young, for no other reason than a friend of mine's older brother was in and had made a toy race car out of wood, which is something you get to do at some point. But once I found out you had to be in for two years before you got to that point (and I figured out for myself that while I may have wanted a toy race car, I didn't particularly care that much about making it), I lost interest immediately.

    That said, congratulations to your cousin! Way to go! I guess.

  5. guys are a bunch of racist, judgmental, homophobes huh? Pretty pathetic ya'll...pretty damned pathetic...although I can't say it surprises me. Most of you so called "christians" are. Idiots.


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