Modern myths

Let’s Get One Thing Straight About the Chevrolet Nova

The name has never meant “no go.”

Nancy Friedman
4 min readOct 17, 2023


Print advertisement for the 1978 Chevy Nova. Source: Nova Research Project

It happened again yesterday: A person I follow on Bluesky — a smart writer whose comments I usually trust— marveled at the sheer boneheadness of General Motors to have sold an automobile called the Chevrolet Nova in Mexico and South America. Because, don’t you see, nova means “no go” in Spanish.

It was approximately the 739th time I’d seen that confident assertion. What did GM expect with a name like that? Of course the Chevy Nova was a dismal flop in Spanish-speaking markets!

So confident! And yet so wrong.

I’ve been patiently correcting the “Nova” myth for more than a decade now, and it seems my work is not yet finished. Indeed, it may never be finished, because this is one of the stubbornest of modern branding myths — a zombie story that, like other undead tales, must be killed over and over.

Which is why I an resurrecting a post I wrote in 2012 for the legal publication Duets Blog. I’ve edited it a bit here and there but left 99 percent of it unchanged. Read it and spread the word! Maybe someday we’ll finally put this story in its grave.

Sooner or later in almost any conversation about global brand names, someone will…



Nancy Friedman

Writer, name developer, brand consultant, idea-ist, ex-journalist. @fritinancy on Mastodon, Instagram, Bluesky, Threads, and elsewhere.