There is a children's book O Gato Malhado e a Andorinha Sinhá by Jorge Amado about two characters, the Gato Malhado and the Andorinha Sinhá.

I would like to know how to understand Sinhá. I have looked up sinhá in a dictionary, but I'm still not sure how it is used here (both the grammar and the meaning).


[De sinhô] Substantivo feminino.

  1. Bras. Pop. Tratamento dado pelos escravos a sua senhora; siá:
    "Conheceram [as negras] muito dono: / Embalaram tanto sono / De tanta sinhá gentil!"
    (Gonçalves Crespo, Obras Completas, p. 352);
    Conversei com Sinhá Maria.

(From Aurélio.)

(Feel free to reply in Portuguese.)

  • 1
    Além de indicar o nome do gato e da andorinha? O livro trata do amor entre o plebeu e a senhoria, entre o gato e ave, amores proibidos. – André Lyra Sep 12 '16 at 17:35
  • Funny story, that. I wouldn't call it a children's book though. The name Andorinha Sinhá follows the common pattern of Rato Mickey and Sapo Cocas (Kermit the Frog); I suppose you're acquinted with this pattern? – Jacinto Sep 12 '16 at 17:39
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Sinhá comes from Senhor/a (Sir). Today it's not used any anymore, but it's related, as you said, to the slave owner or somebody rich.

In this case, Sinhá has not a meaning but it's a name. Sinhá is the name of the bird. I think it's the same construction you can see in Father John, for example.

Of course, the name wasn't chosen by chance or it wouldn't make sense in a fable. The Wikipedia topic helps to understand what it means:

Pode-se dizer que o livro trata, metaforicamente, das diversas relações e situações de cunho sócio-cultural existentes, não só baianas, como brasileira e até mesmo mundial durante a primeira metade do século XX; até mesmo antes dessa época e ainda hoje existentes.

'Baianamente' lembra-se do Elevador Lacerda, que divide e une ao mesmo tempo o Alto e o Baixo da cidade de Salvador. O Gato, no plano baixo, não pode voar e se dar a certos luxos. Em contraponto, a Andorinha vive sobre os demais bichos, tendo um privilégio dado pelo berço, seu lugar de origem.

It's a book about socio-cultural relationships. You have the high and the downtown. The cat lives in downtown and can't afford to achieve the high places.

The bird is named "Sinhá" because her birth right allows her to live high above in the skies, above all the other animals, just like a "sinhá" is above the slaves or the poor.

  • 1
    Andorinha Sinhá ('Swallow Sinhá') follows the common pattern of Rato Mickey, Sapo Cocas. So semantically is akin to Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog, say Sinhá Swallow or Sinhá the Swallow. – Jacinto Sep 12 '16 at 17:31
  • Great. Thanks everyone! – Earthliŋ Sep 12 '16 at 17:39
  • Good exposition. +1 – Centaurus Sep 13 '16 at 16:34

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