Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Owl mothers - São Paulo

What do you think you're doing, young man???

One of my favorite Brazilian expressions is "mãe coruja" or owl mom. The general idea is that a mãe coruja is  ever-protective and ever-proud of her kids. In this link to definitions of various expressions, mãe coruja is a mom who sees her child as having no faults.

Where did the expression come from? According to the site, the term refers to a LaFontaine fable about an owl and an eagle. To cut the fable and poor Mr. LaFontaine short, the main idea is that the owl mom tells the eagle not to eat her beautiful chicks who are in a nest in the forest. The eagle goes and finds the chicks and eats every last one. The owl mom then says to the eagle "hey, what's the deal?" (see how I translate directly from the French? I am in the wrong career here. If I were the mom owl, I would have added some expletives. LaFontaine did not). The eagle replies "well, lady, you said to me 'don't eat those beautiful chicks in the forest'. I didn't. I ate the ugly ones with scruffy grey fluff." Moral:  The mom always sees beauty in her own kids regardless of actuality.

Arguably-ugly little owlets
Before I knew the "real" meaning of a mãe coruja, I had my own image built up of an owl mom. You know the way owls can turn their heads almost completely around to see what is behind them? Yes, that was my image of a so-called owl mom. The mom who has eyes on the back of her head for when her six-year olds decide that well-digging is an excellent thing to do in the backyard. For when they think that tiptoeing across the six-foot high wall is a fun activity. For when they decide that their stuffed animals need a haircut. Or the 13 year-old labrador.

Now imagine if I could turn my head all the way around like owls do and see what they were doing at any time.  Like an Exorcist mom. Eyes on the back of the head. Either way you define it, mãe coruja is a wonderful evocative expression. Now excuse me because I hear the kids working on the plumbing.


  1. I don´t know if you have written about that before, but another wonderful Brazilian expression is : Dar a Luz ! this is my favorite one, and I don´t think there is similar in other a mom, you know exactly what it means...big kiss.Giba....sorry about my poor English...and always in a hurry.

    1. That is a lovely expression. I will definitely add it to my list!!