The lexicon of the Mauritian driver is amusing as it is compelling. The exuberant expressions used by drivers in Mauritius can sometimes sound like funny onomatopoeia, and that is probably why expressions such as “Kachak Charli” or “To lame dibwa” have become an integral part of Mauritian idioms. We’ve collected a few of these pearls to share with you…
· «To lame dibwa» – pronunciation: «toe lam-aeh di-bwa»
In Mauritius, if “to lame dibwa”, it means that you are not the finest driver out there. This term is commonly used to describe new and young drivers who lack practice, and are still hesitant about their driving skills. Having “lame dibwa” (wooden hand) means being uneasy and rigid at the wheel. There are also drivers who, despite years of experience and practice… remain “lame dibwa”. In their case, it means that they are simply not very good at driving.
We hope this is not your case… 😉
· «Chek Routinn» – pronunciation: «check routin»
The infamous “chek routinn” simply means routine check. During the “chek routinn”, the men in blue will require your driving license, a valid insurance and the declaration of the car. If you hear a fellow motorist say “baraz devan” (road block ahead), consider yourself fairly warned… farther down the road, expect to be stopped by the police for a “chek routinn”.
· «Kas kole» – pronunciation: «kass kol-aeh»
Saving fuel by driving in neutral is known as “kas kole”. Oh yes, Mauritians do not mess about when it comes to saving money. Know that this type of driving is very dangerous, especially in modern vehicles (and it certainly doesn’t save you money). In an emergency, it will be almost impossible to brake. Saving is good, but it’s better to do it by remaining vigilant. And the right way to do this is with regular maintenance of your vehicle and responsible behavior on the road.
· «Robo» – pronunciation : «ro-bo»
“Robo” is our colloquial term for traffic lights. When they first appeared on the roads in Mauritius, they were cutting-edge technology! That was way before the technological revolution; “Robo” predates Terminator or Alien and Avatar…
· «Borde» – pronunciation: «board-aeh»
A French loanword, “borde” means parking one’s vehicle on the side of the road.
· «Trompe» – pronunciation: «tromp-aeh»
The Mauritian driver’s lexicon can be a bit confusing for non-locals. “Trompe” is an Old French expression that means to sound a horn. “Trompe” in Mauritian creole means “to horn”. In our modern times, the verb “tromper” in French also means “cheating”, as in committing adultery… Ah, the intricacies of Mauritian Creole! We remind you that it is strictly forbidden to “trompe” in front of schools, hospitals and courts.
· «Debreyaz» – pronunciation: «debréyaz»
“Debrayage” means “disengage” in French. In automotive vocabulary, it means to release the clutch: to declutch. The clutch pedal has thus naturally become known as the “debreyaz”. Simple and effective!
· «Box» and «Tibox»
The “box” is nothing else but the trunk of the car. As for the expression “tibox”, which literally means “small box”, it refers to the glove box. Logical… 😉
· «Kachak-Charli» – pronunciation: «Katchak Charlie»
This one is a complete mystery to us! If you have an explanation as to the possible origin of this amazing expression, we’d love for you to share it with us. “Kachak-Charli” designates a vehicle in poor running condition.
In Mauritian Creole, “laglas” means mirror. It was adapted from the French word “glace”, which is a type of mirror.
· «Avoye» and «Tiombo» – pronunciation «avoy-aeh» and «chombo»
These are expressions that will make you smile! When you say “avoye”, the term comes from “send” in French. It roughly means “start to move”. This indication means that you can start the maneuver you wish to achieve. “Avoye” and “Chombo” are the expressions of Good Samaritans, those that want to help you with a complicated maneuver. When said Samaritans say “chombo”, they mean stop!
· «Gran sime, ti sime» – «sime» is pronounced «sim-aeh»
It’s easy to get disoriented between all the main roads, avenues, and small roads… The Mauritian Driver has a way to get around these complications; “Gran sime” quite literally means “big road” and “Ti sime” means small road. Simplicity is essential when you’re navigating the roads of Mauritius!
There we are! You now know a little bit more about the (sometimes unusual) vocabulary of Mauritian drivers. Do not hesitate to share these expressions around you.
And if you know other expressions, we look forward to reading them in the comments section.