I think I know what a splice is, and I’m sort of willing for the time being, subject to further review, to use the word “knot” to describe any jumble of rope made intentionally or otherwise. But of the two species of knots named “hitches” and “bends,” what’s the difference? A little research uncovers some complexity here, as well as some interpretations too muddled to repeat.
In all matters knotical (not a real word, I’m sorry to report) our best authority absent a solid countervailing reason is The Ashley Book of Knots. Clifford Ashley was a seaman from the fabled whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts who devoted his life to the study of knots used by a wide variety of professionals from the journeyman to the joker. Some are safe, some dangerous, and some downright homicidal (the knots, not the jokers, although we can’t rule that out).
His definitions of the items in question:
ABOK#12: “A hitch makes a rope fast to another object.” In Chapter 20 he elaborates: “A hitch is a complication that secures a rope to another object, generally of a different nature. But this is not necessarily so, since the object may be another rope, provided the hitch is made entirely with the active rope, and the second rope remains inactive.” [Italics mine.]
ABOK#13: “A bend unites two ropes.” In chapter 18, Ashley further explains that generally a bend unites two ropes “at the ends,” and its purpose is “to lengthen the rope.” He adds, “Bends for tying two ends of different characteristics may partake somewhat of the nature of a hitch, since one rope is more active than the other.” [Italics mine.]
By tradition, the anchor rode is always “bent” to its anchor, and a sail to its spar, no matter what type of attachment is utilized, be it knot, shackle, hank, or slide. As a result there is a knot called an Anchor Bend, also known as a Fisherman’s Bend, which actually fits the above definition of a hitch since it “makes a rope fast to another object.” Ashley notes in ABOK#24-26 that this knot is really a hitch and that with this and three other arcane exceptions, “all knots called bends are for lengthening rope, by tying two ends together.”
More next time on hitches, bends, the “active” principle, Clifford Ashley, and the art of knotery (alas, also not a real word).