“You call it a bat, but I call it a fluttermouse.”

At twilight it’s easy to confuse bats with other things. The similarities of flight between bats and swallows and the mysterious absence of both during the winter is surely the basis for the Catalan (and Languedocian) legend of the contest between God and the Devil as to who could make the best bird, God ending up with a swallow and the Devil with a bat (although Emily Dickinson thought Him Upstairs created both).


Elsewhere some Slav languages seem to relate it (RTF) to the nightjar and, since this is a blog, I will not feel shy in confessing that my favourite is the Lowlands vleermuis–fluttermouse–family (=>). Until today I thought vaguely that I must have been dreaming of having heard this in Hampshire, but here is WH Hudson’s 1923 Nature in Downland:

‘You call it a bat,’ said one [workman], ‘and I grant it’s very like one; but I call it a fluttermouse. You see it’s bigger than a bat; but they are all of one specie. The bigger ones, the fluttermouses as we calls them, are the ones that eats the bacon. They comes down the chimney to get it, when it’s hanging there to smoke.’ I tried to convince him that he was blaming the wrong animal, but he stuck to it that it was the fluttermouses and not the mouses that stole the bacon, and finally asserted that he had actually seen them at it.

The OED indeed notes

fluttermouse, dial. form of flittermouse

as well as

flickermouse. Obs. [Altered form of flittermouse.] A bat.

1630 B. Jonson New Inn iii. i, Come, I will see the flicker mouse. 1708 Motteux Rabelais (1737) V. 234 The Flickermise flying through the Translucidity of the corner’d Gate.

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