Posted by: Didapper PJ6 DEC 2011
My local NHS hospital currently has an appeal for funds to support the purchase of a “da Vinci Robot”, which will apparently enhance keyhole surgery because it will “enable our surgeons to continue to be at the cutting edge of their profession”.
Now I like the concept of surgeons at the “cutting” edge — isn’t cutting what their profession is all about? And with the financial problems facing the NHS, the campaign is no doubt in a good cause. But I found myself discouraged by the brand name chosen for the robot by its manufacturer.
The name “da Vinci” is clearly intended as a tribute to that genius of the Italian renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci. But “da Vinci” was not his name, since surnames in the modern sense were not in use in his time. His full birth name was “Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci”, which identifies him as Lionardo, the son of a gentleman named Piero from the Tuscan hill town of Vinci. He is properly referred to as “Leonardo” or “Leonardo da Vinci” but not just “da Vinci”.
The robot’s manufacturer is not alone in misusing “da Vinci”. It has been used as a trade name for various other products featuring alleged technical innovations and also as the name of many Italian restaurants and coffee bars.
But perhaps its most annoying use occurs in Dan Brown’s 2003 mystery-detective novel “The da Vinci code”, which has become the world’s best-selling novel, despite being one of the most poorly written literary works of all time. (Apart from being crammed with religious and historical inaccuracies, the book demonstrates an appalling prose style and an inept vocabulary — right from its opening words.)
Anyway, I have now made my contribution to the hospital’s “da Vinci Robot” appeal. But I might have done so more willingly if it had been a “Leonardo Robot” appeal.