Nano Car. Big Questions.

Jan 11, 2009
*Special to asia!

Is Ratan Tata a hero or a villain? His Tata Nano car is set to put India’s lower-middle class on wheels with its unbelievably low price, but at what cost to the environment?

Why indeed. By creating a car that is tiny and seemingly innocuous, Ratan has thrown the gauntlet to the western world. He has challenged them to confront the issues of global warming and car ownership and to come up with a solution. So far no one has picked up the gauntlet. That says a lot about the world we live in.



The Nano Babel

By Dan-Chyi Chua


tata nano car


TATA Nano Car

Photo from


Smaller than a micro and snazzier than a pico, the word “nano” has become this generation's buzzword for “tiny”.

One way to avoid confusion is through the pronunciation. The American Ipod is a “nay'no” while the Indian Tata car, a “nah'no”. Still puzzled? Ask an American what ketchup is made from.

While some will put it down to regional linguistic differences, purists will tell you that in the case of the word “nano”, the Indians are the ones who say it right. The word “nano” originates from the Greek. It is also used in Italian, and in both languages, the word means “dwarf” and is pronounced the Indian way.

The reason Tata named his tiny car the “nano” is because that is the word for “small” in his native Gujerati. This similarity between the three languages points to an origin five millenia old. Italian, Greek and Gujerati are just three tongues that find their origins in the Proto-Indo-European language, which spread since the Bronze Age from around the Baltic region to form diverse language families including the Hellenic, which includes Gaellic and Greek; the Sanskrit, like Gujerati; and the Italic branch that gave birth to Romance languages such as Italian.

Finally after 5,000 years, we are back speaking the same language once again. Well, almost.






lee han shihLee Han Shih is the founder, publisher and editor of asia! Magazine.


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