Bats are not blind

April 19, 2016 ☼ Pedantry

We grow weary of your proclivity for unproven similes.

“Nervous as a hooker in church.” Cite your source. “Cute as a bug’s ear.” Where’s the evidence? “Software as a service.” Utter poppycock.

The egregious specimen that offends us today: “Blind as a bat.” We don’t know why, but humans have an indefatigable zest for bat slander.

Consider the nomenclature:

In many languages, the word for “bat’ is cognate with the word for “mouse’: for example, chauve-souris (“bald-mouse”) in French, murciélago (“blind mouse”) in Spanish, saguzahar (“old mouse”) in Basque, летучая мышь (“flying mouse”) in Russian, slijepi miš (“blind mouse”) in Bosnian, nahkhiir (“leather mouse”) in Estonian[…] Wild Birds Unlimited

Bald. Blind. Old. Leather, Estonia? It would seem that in a rare moment of fraternity the entire world is united in the opinion of the the size of shrift to be allotted these winged mammalians. Namely: short.

Many diminutive bat species are nocturnal and echolocation enables them to feed at night, but they aren’t blind. Their eyes receive light and echolocation helps them “see” even more. To put it in terms you can understand, bats are the Geordi La Forge of the animal kingdom; they’ve got vision on vision.

And bats without echolocation abilities (like fruit bats) have very respectable vision indeed. So wherefore the lies? Who espied a bat sporting a pair of opaque sunglasses? Or one tethered to a seeing-eye dog? We would suspect those leather-lusty Estonians, but that would be hasty. We have said altogether too much already.

It’s time to end the negative PR campaign against bat vision. To invoke yet another slur against our cousins in the sky: this idea is straight down batty.

Sources: Wikipedia, Star Trek Encyclopedia