This morning I heard a small child and her mother out in our apartment courtyard:
Child: Mãe! (Mom!)
Mom: Sim? (Yes?)
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.