Elle est myope comme une taupe.
ay lay meeYUP kuh mewn TOPE. Click below to hear this.*
She is blind as a bat.
Another animal myth exploded! Is nothing sacred anymore?
Bats aren’t blind. They can. see perfectly well. True, they use echolocation, a form of sonar, as their primary means of finding their way. But they also call on their eyesight to help them interpret the sounds that they bounce off of objects.
However, none of that is going to change the language. In English, many people (including myself, without my glasses) are blind as a bat.
Nevertheless, this obsession with bats doesn’t carry over to the French. Instead, it’s a mole, une taupe. (That’s feminine, by the way, whether the animal is male or female. And the color “taupe” refers to the gray-tan color of a mole’s skin.)
So are moles blind? Well, not quite. They have tiny little underdeveloped eyes that are pretty well covered with fur and a thin lid that they keep closed so they won’t get dirt in their eyes. Scientists say that moles can distinguish light from dark, but not much else.
So the French phrase is myope comme une taupe, which really means as near-sighted as a mole. And speaking of near, the phrase is a near-rhyme. Myope is composed of two half-syllables (it’s not two, and it’s not one, because the y is a semi-vowel). The second half of the word sounds like /yup/. Taupe has a pure /o/ sound. But they sound similar enough so that they seem inevitably linked.
It’s quite common for set expressions to depend on a rhyme, an alliteration, or some other sound similarity. It’s part of the fun, a way of playing with the language. Why else would we say things like blind as a bat and myope comme une taupe?
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: