I n Uganda (I am not sure of other countries), one of the similarities between cars and human beings is that both are or can be nicknamed. Just like that colleague called “Brown” because of their light skin complexion, there is a car named “Kigaati” (Luganda for “bread”) because its shape resembles that of bread. Apparently, the monikers of most cars are synonymous with the structure of the car.
How do the names come about?
Bonnie Mubarak, a car dealer at 3WM Uganda Limited car bond, says the genesis of the nicknames can be traced to the inability of the locals to memorise or pronounce the real names of the cars. “For example the Mitsubishi Pajero Exceed. People find difficulty in recalling such a long name. This is where the pet name comes in handy. It is nick named Paddy Bitama. It is easy to evoke the Bitama name because the popular fallen comedian owned one ” he offers.
“The names are coined by either the buyers or sellers – whoever comes up with one faster. However, how the name spreads is unexplainable. It is like a rumour. Before you know it, someone from as far as Kabale comes around referring to the particular car with its new moniker.”
Peter Kaboneka, also a car dealer but, at Pine Bond along Lumumba Avenue remarks that one maybe deluded that car monikers are only used today. “Those names have been around for as long as cars have been in the country.
Today, they are popular because there are many cars on the road, so there are many cars to nickname, unlike say in the 1960s. But even in those years, the cars which were on the road like the Ford Anglia and the Bedford had monikers. There was a Ford Anglia called “Kajjambiya” Luganda for “a panga”.
There was a Bedford named “Namasaalwa”. Kaboneka explains that the reason most of the pet names are in Luganda is because it is the most popular language in the country. We talked to car dealers at both 3WM and Pine to share with us the different car names in use and the stories behind the particular names.
Real name: Toyota Corolla AE100
Nickname: Kikumi, Luganda for 100.
Name roots: It was called so because its chassis number is AE 100. It is only the figure that was cropped out and named after. There are other Toyota Corollas with chassis numbers ranging from 90 to 110. All are named after the figure in the chassis number.
Real name: Toyota RAV4
Nickname: Kampomedde or Kampomera
Name roots: Its pet name has a sexual innuendo. Both Luganda words mean “I liked it”. The RAV 4 (short chassis) is usually driven by ladies. It is assumed that most of these ladies have received these cars as gifts from men, acknowledging the niceness of the carnal knowledge they offered.
Real name: Toyota Nadia
Name roots: This is commonly called “Kigaati” Luganda for “bread”. Its shape is not really similar to one of a loaf of bread but folks asked say insist on calling it so. Toyota Global says “Nadia” was a popular girl’s name derived from the Russian word “nadezhda” (“hope”).
Real name: Toyota Hiace
Name roots: It is called Kigege, Luganda for tilapia fish. They say this van’s front part resembles a fish’s head but this is doubtable. The one that came before it (the third generation factory code named H50, was called Kamunye Luganda for “eagle”. This was because of its being fast. So its drivers would say it was as swift as an eagle. The Kigege is the fourth generation Hiace. Toyota Global says Hiace is a combination of Hi and Ace meaning a vehicle that surpasses its predecessor, the Toyoace.
Real name: Toyota Corona ST 190
Name roots: It has one of the oldest car nicknames in the land. Besides Kibina Luganda for “big backside” while others call it mugugu Luganda for “luggage”. The name is attributed to its raised big boot, it is said to be similar to a big backside. It is called mugugu because its spacious boot can carry a lot of luggage. Toyota Global says the corona is the ring of pearly light around the sun.
Real name: Mitsubishi Pajero V60
Name roots: This particular SUV is nicknamed Bitama. This was the name of the deceased comedian who was called Bitama because of his big cheeks.
The vehicle’s fenders are unusually big. When you compare them with human body parts bear a resemblance to cheeks. And in Luganda, big cheeks are called ebitama or simply bitama.
Real name: Toyota Mark II
Name roots: Musota in Luganda means snake. They saywhen this Mark II is on the road, it barely makes any sound, just like a snake, thus the name.
Real name: Toyota Harrier (second generation)
Name roots: The second generation Harrier is referred to as Kawundo, Luganda for a bat. They say its shape resembles a bat. Others say the SUV’s logo resembles a bat. They may not be far from the truth because Toyota Global says a harrier is a long-winged, slender-bodied bird of prey.
Real name: They are quite many micro vans and include Daihatsu Hijet, Suzuki Every, Honda Acty, Subaru Sambar, Mitsubishi Minicab and Suzuki Carry.
Name roots: Their nicknames are not surprising; some call them Nyongezza Luganda for “bonus” while others call it “shopping basket”. The Nyongezza name is derived from the fact that it used to be given as a bonus to the early car dealers in Japan. The shopping basket name is traced to the van being commonly used to carry shopping items. In Japan, they are called Kei trucks or small light commercial vans.
Real name: Toyota TownAce
Name roots: This vehicle has two monikers. Some call it Dudu, Swahili for “an insect” while others call it the Kigaati, Luganda for bread. The Dudu name is also because of its small size while the Kigaati name is because it has a raised roof resembling a loaf of bread and that it is mostly used by bakeries to deliver bread.
Other local car nicknames
From factory series numbers translated into Luganda and then baptised as the vehicle’s local name to shapes, local names just cannot end. They say the Toyota Ipsum forms the shape of a pig’s head. This is why it is nicknamed Kabizzi Luganda for a pig. Toyota Land Cruiser Prado TX (code name J90). Its nick name is a hilarious one. It is called Ssebaana. It is claimed that former City Mayor, Sebaana Kizito was the first Ugandan to own the car.
The ninth generation Toyota Mark II (code named X11) is called Kitaala. It has wide front headlights at stand out. Kitaala in Luganda means a big lamp. Coaster is a 26-30 seater van manufactured by Toyota. However, there is a misconception in Uganda that every commercial van shaped like this or with a similar sitting capacity is also a Coaster, so the name stuck. Even URA motor vehicle tax clearance documents refer to such vehicles as Coasters.
Other 26-30 seater vans include Mitsubishi Rosa, Hino Liese, Isuzu Journey, Nissan Civilian and Mazda minibus of the T series. Just like other number derived names, the Nissan Datsun 1,200 is locally called Lukumi mubibili, Luganda for 1200. It is also alleged that Toyota Vitz cars are also referred to as Kampomedde just like the RAV4 and for the same reasons given for the local RAV4 name.
Others call the Vitz Messe or rat in Luganda because of its shape. The Toyota Progrès is referred to as a poor man’s Benz. Magulukumi is for all trucks with ten tyres. In the 1990s, there were some Toyota Carinas called Kiyenje (cockroach).