Bitter end

Posted by ESC on July 20, 2003

In Reply to: Bitter end posted by nancy k on July 19, 2003

: I work in an historic home in Plymouth MA. We have some pieces of clay pipes and it was my understanding that the ends were broken off as they became bitter - therefore "bitter end" can anyone verify this?

"The usually accepted explanation of the origin of this popular metaphor has a distinctly nautical origin. The anchor rope (which today is called 'line') on old sailing vessels was attached to a stout oak post called a 'bitt,' which was firmly fastened to the deck. Securing turns were taken around the bitt as anchor and anchor rope were paid out to the sea. The end of the rope nearest the bitt was called the 'bitter end.' When at the end of your rope, on land or at sea, you've reached the bitter end." From "When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech" by Olivia A. Isil (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, McGraw-Hill, 1996.)

A couple of references also mention this Bible verse as a possible source:
Proverbs 5:4
But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
(Whole Chapter: Proverbs 5 In context: Proverbs 5:3-5) cgi-bin/bible