Author Topic: Bitter End, or Bitters.  (Read 5547 times)

PwH

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 75
Bitter End, or Bitters.
« on: January 30, 2011, 01:59:22 AM »
Hi All,

I am going to raise an issue here that I fear may become quite contentious. It is regarding the use of the terms 'Bitter End' and 'Bitters'.

Before I go any further I'd just like to say that I'm not sniping at or picking on any one individual, and I hope we can have a mature,frank and friendly discussion of the terminology.

So, My issue is that I have noticed a growing use of the terms 'Bitter End' and or 'Bitters' to refer to the end of any rope, but in particular what I would call the 'Working End' or 'Working Part', that being the end with which one is working, as opposed to the 'Standing End or Part' that being the other end of the rope in use, which is already more or less fixed in its location (as in 'Standing Rigging'). It is also on occasion  being used to denote the tailstock end of of a rope in process of being laid up.

My contention is that the 'Bitter End' and it's derivation 'Bitters' is solely and only the end of an anchor cable left inside the vessel inboard of the 'Bitts' (bollards, cleats, posts, horns, or whatever) or, where the cable is shackled to the bottom of the chain locker as in some modern sailing boats, the extent of the cable between the winch drum or chain gypsy, and that shackle.

I quote Dan Lehman below from 2009

"I wish we could kill this mistaken meaning:  the "bitter" end was named for
the *end*/part of the rope "ABAFT THE BITTS," not some ultimate end-point of
that bit of rope.  "bitter" from "bitts", not from some connotation of taste.  I think
that this is well enough documented without other than common misunderstanding
and mis-use going against it."

Also from  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/65800.html

"Enter stage left, Captain Smith. Here's what he has to say, in his publication Seaman's Grammar, 1627, which is the earliest citation of the phrase in print:

"A Bitter is but the turne of a Cable about the Bits, and veare it out by little and little. And the Bitters end is that part of the Cable doth stay within boord."

As you might have deduced, a bitt is a post fastened in the deck of a ship, for fastening cables and ropes. When a rope is played out to the bitter end, it means there is no more rope to be used."

So, here we have two Authorities plus me appealing for a return to the olde original meaning of the term 'Bitter End', for the use of the term 'Working End' for the working end, and the appropriate original term for the sled or tailstock end of a rope in the making, whatever that may be.

I realise that language is a dynamic and living beast that mutates and evolves over time, but mostly a breeder will send all but the best stock for slaughter, keeping only that which pleases his eye for breeding.

That's all I wish to say on the subject for now, Over to You

Best Regards, Peter H
« Last Edit: January 30, 2011, 02:22:27 AM by PwH »
Is a Round Turn just a Grossly Overfed Seabird?

SS369

  • Global Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1907
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2011, 03:26:06 AM »
Hello Peter,

I have always thought of the terms in the realm of shipboard use, not knotting terminology. My opinion is that it just isn't specifically germane to tying of the knot.

It means a location of the working end somewhere, knot necessarily in a knot.

But if I was doing a (probably bad) pirate imitation, I would most certainly use it. Probably would overuse it at that. ;-)

SS

knot4u

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1076
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2011, 05:54:48 AM »
I like the term working end, but don't really care too much what it's called.

alpineer

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 507
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2011, 06:05:18 AM »
Very nicely said PwH. I am with you on this, all the way to the bitter end ;)

roo

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1855
    • The Notable Knot Index
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2011, 06:20:47 AM »
for the use of the term 'Working End' for the working end, and...
This may be a slight diversion from the topic, but I occasionally see confusion caused by the term "working end".  People can easily imagine it being the energized part of the rope that is doing the work.   :)

On the other hand, I've never encountered confusion when I use the term "free end".  It seems to be universally and immediately understood.
If you wish to add a troll to your ignore list, click "Profile" then "Buddies/Ignore List".


Dan_Lehman

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3947
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2011, 07:39:21 AM »
My contention is that the 'Bitter End' and it's derivation 'Bitters' is solely and only the end of an anchor cable left inside the vessel inboard of the 'Bitts' (bollards, cleats, posts, horns, or whatever) or, where the cable is shackled to the bottom of the chain locker as in some modern sailing boats, the extent of the cable between the winch drum or chain gypsy, and that shackle.

Amen.

And re
Quote
I realise that language is a dynamic and living beast that mutates and evolves over time, but ...

... too often this beast's supposed "living" is really a dying of some
part of it, from ignorance.  Here, ignoring the historical precedent
in favor of some other sense, a useful distinction is lost to nothing
more than some intensifier, really (as "end" alone pretty well gets
you to the same place!).   (And a pet peeve is the oft' seen/heard
solecism "comprised of" --which should be regarded as bad syntax--
vice "composed of", or --better, for edification purposes-- "comprising"!)

Quote
I quote Dan Lehman below from 2009

'I wish we could kill this mistaken meaning:  the "bitter" end was named for
the *end*/part of the rope "ABAFT THE BITTS," not some ultimate end-point of
that bit of rope.  "bitter" from "bitts", not from some connotation of taste.  I think
that this is well enough documented without other than common misunderstanding
and mis-use going against it.'

Just recently I've had success in turning away a widespread (mis)use
as discussed here, in what I think will be an influential (at least, often
used & cited) knotting resource.  <whew!>


Quote
Enter stage left, Captain Smith. Here's what he has to say, in his publication Seaman's Grammar, 1627, which is the earliest citation of the phrase in print:

"A Bitter is but the turne of a Cable about the Bits, and veare it out by little and little. And the Bitters end is that part of the Cable doth stay within boord."

Oh, dear, was that a "round" turne?!   ;D


 ;)

[Inkanyezi] gone

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • Pro three strand splice
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2011, 10:30:42 AM »
The subject then is twofold. To me, the bitter end is the inboard end, never the outer end of anything attached inboard with the other end. I was quite unaware that the term may have been used erroneously for just any end of a rope.

"Working end" however, does not seem as a good choice of terms. In other languages (yes, of course my primary languages are other than English), there are sometimes specific terms, but "end" is good enough, and when it might need further explanation, "working" is one of the epithets that may be used. When tying a mat or a turk's head, there is a working end, which can be either end, depending on which one is used at the moment. But when throwing a clove hitch or tying the carrick bend the way I tie it, there are no working ends.

Any loose end that emerges from a knot maybe called "chicote" in Spanish or "sladd" in Swedish, which correspond to "free end", but ends are simply ends. It becomes a "working end" only when it is worked in order to make the knot, and it is a free end where it emerges from the knot.
All images and text of mine published on the IGKT site is licensed according to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

PwH

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 75
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2011, 03:45:45 PM »
Ha Ha Dan,  :D very good, but more likely a figure 8 type construction on double Bitts !  

Inkanyezi,

Totally agree, Bitter end is that which lies inboard of the Bitts, and as I said in the first post working end is what I would call it, it's open to the one working to call it what they may except 'Bitter', which has a defined usage.

The double half hitch coil method of throwing a clove hitch surely comprises the 'working end' or maybe 'working bight' until it leave the hand and settles on the Bollard tho, wouldn't you say?

I'd love to know how you tie the Carrick bend with no working ends, can you explain / illustrate please?

Cheers, Peter H

Is a Round Turn just a Grossly Overfed Seabird?

[Inkanyezi] gone

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • Pro three strand splice
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2011, 05:23:10 PM »
/.../
Inkanyezi,
/.../
I'd love to know how you tie the Carrick bend with no working ends, can you explain / illustrate please?
/.../
I have it on my webpage http://web.comhem.se/~u77479609/Carrick%20Bend.html. Of course the knot has free ends, but none of them is actually engaged for reeving through the knot pattern. All movements are by the bight of the line.
All images and text of mine published on the IGKT site is licensed according to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

knot4u

  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1076
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2011, 08:07:55 PM »
/.../
Inkanyezi,
/.../
I'd love to know how you tie the Carrick bend with no working ends, can you explain / illustrate please?
/.../
I have it on my webpage http://web.comhem.se/~u77479609/Carrick%20Bend.html. Of course the knot has free ends, but none of them is actually engaged for reeving through the knot pattern. All movements are by the bight of the line.

Given the way "working end" is commonly used, that looks like 2 working ends and 2 standing ends.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2011, 04:36:01 AM by knot4u »

TheKnotGuy

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 7
Re: Bitter End, or Bitters.
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2011, 12:22:17 AM »
I agree with you.  I started using the "bitter end" early in my knot working.  Found out that people have different ideas as to what "bitter end" really means.  I've dropped it from my vocabulary and consistently use working end.  We've got enough confusion already and don't need to add to what is out in the general poplulation.