This morning I heard a small child and her mother out in our apartment courtyard:

Child: Mãe! (Mom!)

Mom: Sim? (Yes?)

Child: Mãe!

Mom: Sim?

Child: Mãe!

Mom: Sim?

This is a familiar pattern. The child just wants acknowledgment that her mom is paying attention to her, and the mother wants to provide that acknowledgement with the least amount of effort possible. (Because she’s going to be saying it over and over again.)

In English, the mother’s response can be exactly the same, or she may say “What?” instead. I asked my wife if moms ever say “O quê?” (What?) here, and she said no, that would be considered rude.

Oops. I have officially been rude to my stepson.

Of course I am now wondering what form this interaction takes in other languages. Is the mother’s response always one syllable? Is “what” considered rude elsewhere?

Just thought of another mom-response: my mother used to repeat my name back to me until I came up with something requiring more of an answer.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in language, Portugal. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Mãe!

  1. Filipa says:

    With my mum it would always be something like

    Me: Mãe!
    My mum: Filha! (daughter!)

    But my mother always liked to make a little fun of me whenever she could! 😉

  2. Lilaine says:

    I remember my Mom(Maman) always answered those “calls” by a “Oui ma chérie” to me or “Oui mon chéri” to my brother. I don’t remember the repeating pattern, though.
    Later, as an adult(if I ever was one…), I watched her do the same with my brother’s children. The repeated call was absent, too. I guess it’s because each and every time, Mom did pay attention to them, turning from whatever she was doing and looking inquiringly at them with a loving smile. I watched my niece and nephew smiling back, apparently satisfied (or was it hypnotized ?) by this response.
    And I can’t help smiling inside when I hear her answering “Oui mon trésor” to each “meow” from our very talkative and attention sucking cat, Sylvestre. 🙂

  3. Jbrandao says:

    I guess the “Sim?” feels like a more receptive, open response, while the “What?” feels like the person is getting annoyed.

    • lasse - Alma's dad says:

      Mostly I told them (got five kids) “ja” or “ja min älskling”, i.e. yes or yes my love. Sometimes when I realised she or he really had something to tell me I said “vad” or “ja, vad”, i.e. what or yes, what. But vad could also be considered rude depending the circumstances.

  4. M. says:

    We repeat the pattern. Answering “Tak?” (Yes?) is considered more polite than “Co?” (What?).

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