I CAN TAKE ANY ONE OF YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!!! No, wait, I'm just building a cup pyramid.
December 20, 2010 12:25 AM   Subscribe

Australians of Metafilter, I want to hear from you! I've long heard that turning your glass upside down in a bar in Australia is the same as saying you think you could take anyone in the place. For some reason, this idea fascinates me. Is it true? Do people actually do this? What happens when they do? Where did it come from?

I've googled a bit, but I haven't found much beyond the general "don't do this." I'd love to hear firsthand experiences or see examples from TV shows or movies. Other bits of Australian bar custom would be cool to hear about, as well.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! to Society & Culture (49 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have lived in Australia for seven years and I have never heard this before. I go to bars sometimes and I have never seen anyone do this. But maybe I go to the wrong sort of bar.
posted by lollusc at 12:37 AM on December 20, 2010

I've lived in Australia for a long time and I have never heard of anything like this. If you did it, I would think you were strange, and perhaps be a bit annoyed if by doing so, you spilled the dregs of your beer on the table.
posted by embrangled at 12:41 AM on December 20, 2010

I have lived in Queensland, the A.C.T, New South Wales and Victoria. I have never heard of this, seen it, heard it even mentioned as an urban legend that people talk about but never do. Never.

Not saying it might not be floating around out there - I'm not the Ur-Australian - but I have lived in a lot of cities for a lot of years, and I grew up in the country, and this is completely new to me.
posted by smoke at 12:45 AM on December 20, 2010

I've lived in Australia for 42 years, since birth. I've had drinks in very classy bars, and I've had drinks in dives that make you want to wash your hands between drinks, and I've had drinks in every kind of place in-between.

I've never seen that, never heard of that, never done that. (Turning your glass upside down would waste the last drop of Tooheys New!)

This reminds me that once I was in a bar in Sydney (Bourbon and Beefsteak... don't judge me!), and an English bloke picked a fight with me because I was wearing a studded wristband and he claimed it was an invitation to fight in England. I politely pointed out it was a fashion statement in Australia - it was the 80's, after all - and bought him a drink. He was an arrogant prick, though, I hope that was the drink that gave him a hangover.

Moral to the story? We don't turn our glasses upside down in the pub. And we don't ride kangaroos to work, we don't call each other cobber, and you shouldn't believe everything you hear about our far-flung nation. (Drop-bears? That's a whole 'nother story!)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:50 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Curious. I've heard the same urban legend floating around, though I didn't think much of it until now. I'm intrigued by the idea that Australians don't even know this is circulating, and imagining a disappointed tough guy swaggering into a dive bar down under, upending his glass, and getting nothing but strange looks from the locals.
posted by verb at 12:54 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'll add my own 'never heard of it'.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:55 AM on December 20, 2010

Generally it's a lot easier to just rip open your shirt and yell out "I can take any one of you bastards!" and then perhaps snap a pool stick or even a chair over a table.

If you turn over your glass people will just look at you a bit oddly.
posted by gomichild at 12:57 AM on December 20, 2010 [12 favorites]

I can't think of any other Aussie bar custom... be polite, don't push in, but don't stand back and lose your place either. As a chick, if a guy offers to let me be served before him when he was there first, I wave him on ahead, and say with a smile, "you were here first".

We sometimes say cheers instead of thanks (well, in the country we do, anyway).

I like to take my empty glass to the bar and leave it somewhere near the glass-washer to make the staff's life easier. Just one of those smaller karma things that make me feel good.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:59 AM on December 20, 2010



The only thing even vaguely similar that I've ever encountered is that the old blokes who prop up the bar will put their glass on its side to indicate they've finished their session. (Otherwise the bartender presumes they want another.)
posted by robcorr at 12:59 AM on December 20, 2010

Response by poster: Interesting. I heard this years ago from a guy I knew who had taken a (supposedly lengthy) trip to Australia. I was very young at the time and just accepted it, but it wasn't until today I thought, "Huh, I wonder if that's actually true?" I found a fair number of references to it when googling (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), so I figured there was something to it. It seems it might be one of those bits of lore about a place that EVERYONE knows except for, y'know, the people who live there.

I do so want this to be true, though. It just seems so awesome in my head.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 12:59 AM on December 20, 2010

I grew up in South Australia and have heard it before. In high school; I remember making jokes about it with my friends. But I never heard it again, and have certainly never seen anybody do it. If somebody were to turn their glass upside down at the bar I really doubt that it would get a response from anybody. Except the bartender, of course, who likely wouldn't take kindly to having beer dregs poured over the bar.
posted by kisch mokusch at 1:00 AM on December 20, 2010

Oh for other bits of info if you are playing pool in a bar and you don't sink any balls you have to drop your pants and run around the table.

At least that's what I tell the foreigners I've played with.
posted by gomichild at 1:00 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A mate of mine finishes a beer, tips it upside down, holds it on top of his head and sings "...and the loveliest of all was the unicorn..."

Not quite the same thing.
posted by robotot at 1:01 AM on December 20, 2010 [11 favorites]

I am not Australian. I first heard of this some fourty years ago, and it was related about docker or sailors bars in the Port areas of London and other North Sea ports - Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg etc. Never seen only heard.
posted by adamvasco at 1:03 AM on December 20, 2010

I'm English of Irish extraction and have heard it said about Irish bars in the rougher bits of UK cities, but usually in the context of a very tall tale that I wouldn't put much store by.
posted by Abiezer at 1:05 AM on December 20, 2010

When we've finished a bottle of wine at a pub, we turn it upside down when we put it back in the ice-bucket, so the staff know it's empty and come to take it away. I have no idea if that's an international custom or purely Aussie.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 1:24 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: (australian, pub-frequenter, onetime engineering student)

I've seen that done to say you could take anyone in a drinking comp., but it sounds like you mean take anyone in a fight. In which case, no, I reckon it's a crock.
posted by russm at 1:33 AM on December 20, 2010

Nup. Never heard of it.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:38 AM on December 20, 2010

I have heard this from my brother, and independently from an ex-sailor, but they were both talking about the dodgier pubs in Glasgow, not Oz. The way they told it, this gesture, usually performed by a balding local hard man in a neat polo shirt and slip-ons (apparently the de rigeur rig of aggro wee men in Glasgow) means 'I'm about to hit somebody - if you're not involved, clear out'. My brother witnessed a bar fight start like this and the ex-submariner I used to work with was pulled out of a pub near the docks by a local who saw someone about to kick off and thought he better get the English chap out of there. All told to me second-hand of course, but I've no reason to doubt either of them.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:42 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

a couple of other australian pub things (though more student/backpacker than regular pub life) -

the call of "taxi" if someone drops a glass

the "no way, get fucked, fuck off" chorus if someone puts Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again on the jukebox
posted by russm at 1:43 AM on December 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

Professional Australian, and quite the drinker. Never heard of this.
posted by the noob at 2:50 AM on December 20, 2010

Like Robotot, I knew people who would turn the glass upside down on their head, but only after drinking it all at once, very quickly, to signify "I have drained this glass so dry so quickly that I will bet my dignity that what remains is not even enough to dampen my hair."
posted by No-sword at 2:57 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Professional drinker, and quite the Australian. Never heard of this.

Now, if you turn some other guy's glass upside down (with beer still in it) then it's on for young and old.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:31 AM on December 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Actually, if you like I could test this out next time I'm at the pub: turn a glass over, and if some bloke challenges me to a take it outside - just me & him - I can say "nah, don't worry about it, mate, it was just something that Captain Cardathian the internet asked me to do"

That'll get me off scot free, no worries.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:39 AM on December 20, 2010

The thing about having to drop your pants (getting "downtroued") when you lose at pool is totally true for New Zealand student pubs. I didn't know it happened in Aus, too.
posted by lollusc at 3:40 AM on December 20, 2010

Never heard of it. The only thing it reminds me of is tipping the glass upside down and holding above your head at the end of a sculling contest (ie. a race to see who can drink a pint of beer thre fastest) to prove your glass is empty.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 3:43 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: Allright... time for some science, bitches. I've just ridden down to the pub*, had a beer and turned the glass upside down on the bar.

The publican looked at me as if to say 'why the fuck did you spill beer on my bar' and then asked if I wanted another one. No-one in the place batted an eyelid. They were all either watching the TV or playing pool.

*Country Victorian pub, in case this turns into a larger study and we need to correlate data or something.
posted by tim_in_oz at 3:48 AM on December 20, 2010 [17 favorites]

Further to TheOtherGuys comment: in Fiji, I won a beer-sculling competition. I had to tip my emptied stubbie upside down over my head after each round. But there is always a drop left, which will drip on your freshly-washed hair. That never happened here in Oz though. I've never heard of Aussies wasting beer in any way, shape or form.

I think this myth is busted, Captain Cardanthian.

And now I'll spend the night singing "Am I ever gonna see your face again, NO WAY, GET FUCKED, FUCK OFF!". Thanks for that earworm trigger, russm.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:07 AM on December 20, 2010

Yeah, we do the "taxi" thing and the dacky run for a lost pool game with no balls sunk, in my part of town. But for fights we just start punching, no upside down glasses necessary.
posted by harriet vane at 4:16 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Australian, drunkard, never heard of it.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:31 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Australian, from rural Australia, heard about it as a kid in the 70's, and heard about specific people doing it, but they were different times.
Since I moved to the city 20 years ago I have not kept up to date with the goings on of the pub brawling world, but I can add this, I once saw someone gain the upper hand in a mass brawl at the san remo pub by hosing away his opponents and the bouncers with the fire hose
posted by compound eye at 5:00 AM on December 20, 2010

I think it's really interesting that those links the OP posted mentioned that "While it's common in many western countries to turn your cup over after you are done drinking, ...etc"

I live in a western country.... and I would NEVER turn my cup upside down, unless I was trying to make a mess.
posted by rebent at 5:13 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, chiming in as yet another Australian: never heard of it.
posted by hot soup girl at 6:31 AM on December 20, 2010

Yeah, we do the "taxi" thing and the dacky run for a lost pool game with no balls sunk, in my part of town. But for fights we just start punching, no upside down glasses necessary.
posted by harriet vane at 4:16 AM on December 20 [+] [!]

Not a drinker, spend a bit of time in pubs, remember what goes on, and Harriet's got it right for this side of the country.

We've always called the "seven balls on the table, pants down" rule "getting pantsed."

"Taxi!" happens at parties as well as in pubs, bars and clubs.

Punching definitely comes before anything else.

The only other one I can think of is that old blokes will often leave their money on the bar, and let the bar staff manage it. A similar thing sometimes happens with old prospectors and their debit cards in mining areas. The bar staff get the card and pin number, and cut off supply when a nominated limit is reached.
posted by Ahab at 6:39 AM on December 20, 2010

"So, as you can see, my next invention is a spring damped saddle that..."

malibustacey9999: "And we don't ride kangaroos to work,"

"Uh, moving on, over here we have a self-inverting bar mug..."
posted by chairface at 11:41 AM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Never heard of it either.

It is worth remembering that Australians like to make things up to bemuse and frighten foreigners. See also, drop bears.
posted by girlgenius at 2:16 PM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm an Australian. I've lived here for over 30 years, and I've never heard of this tradition, not even as an urban myth...
posted by with the singing green stars as our guide at 2:18 PM on December 20, 2010

Oh, and what girlgenius says about Australians liking to make things up to bemuse and frighten foreigners is true.

Drop bears, hoop snakes, the Lithgow panther (actually a very large feral cat, whose size was greatly exaggerated by the locals for fun...)
posted by with the singing green stars as our guide at 2:28 PM on December 20, 2010

Really? Really? Weird. We might need to start an "Aussie Education" blog, because we most definately do not do this. It's a waste of beer. If you tried to fight me because of my glass being non-upright, I'd quickly tell you no way, get fucked, fuck off.

Yes, you might put your glass over on the table or your head if you're sculling, but we just start punching for fights, it's easier.

There are a couple of drinking traditions that certain groups hold... Usually students in specific groups, Rovers, or clubs. For instance, there's the International Drinking (Buffalo) Rules, or licking it where it lies.
posted by Quadlex at 3:39 PM on December 20, 2010

don't listen to girlgenius or wtsgsaog - they're just making things up to confuse you... we australians are on the whole notorious truth tellers and non-exagerators, even when being otherwise would be a source of amusement...
posted by russm at 5:39 PM on December 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah. Russm's right, we tell it how it is.

And when I tell you that we invert our glasses to keep deadly Tongue Fangin Snakes and Lip Biting Spiders from sneaking in between drinks, you'd better believe me.

And if ya don't believe me, I'll fight youse all..
posted by Ahab at 11:08 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, russm's exaggerating our non-exaggeratingness. Don't believe him! He's obviously un-Australian, by his own definition!

Aside from that, I popped by to report that I tested the upturned glass at my local pub just now. No fights, but the barmaid did ask if I wanted another beer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:31 PM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: I'm going to eat my hat here.

I've just been talking to a friend who worked at CJ's Tavern in Maylands, Perth, in the early to mid 90s.

She tells me that among the diggers (mostly WWII veterans) who drank there:

1) Glasses were refilled and money taken off the counter for as long as a glass remained upright and cash remained on the bar.

2) When a glass was tipped on it's side, it meant that a bloke was ready to stop drinking.

3) When a glass was inverted it meant a fight.

She is adamant about this. It's not just what she was told. She saw it happen.

Nom. Nom. Nom..
posted by Ahab at 5:35 AM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, but that's Perth. It's like saying "They wear grass skirts in Hawaii, so it's an American custom".

But if it dates back to the WWII era, it might've had something to do with the Six O'Clock Swill. Pubs were forced under law to close at 6pm, so men had to get in as many beers as possible in between work and closing time. A place at the bar was premium, so maybe turning the glass upside down was a way of saying "I'm just off for a fight, but when I come back I expect my spot to be kept for me"

A similar kind of protocol is observed today, whereby you put a coaster on top of your glass if heading off for a piss or a smoke, but that's so that the glassie doesn't come around and collect your beer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:42 PM on December 21, 2010

Yep. It's gotta be an old blokes' thing. And maybe six oclock swill, too. Something else Mich mentioned last night was that it was never acceptable to replace a bloke's glass with a clean one while he was drinking. They'd keep the same glass for the whole session. I reckon that'd be about speed of refills. Unless it was a way of keeping their ponies cold longer.

And you're definitely right about some things being different over here. We've got No Spitting and No Humbugging signs behind the bars, for instance. Both either lead to fights, or are a way of starting one.

But up north there's also a widespread "No Hats" rule. I can't find a photo of a sign online, but there's the odd link to it. Most people either just don't get it or they think it's an ordinary "look neat for the pub" dress code thing:

We got to the Fitzroy Inn at 12:30pm. We were going to eat at the Inn, but the chief suggested we would like the Fitzroy Lodge better. To our surprise, the Lodge has a dress code:

No hats, No soiled clothes, No uniforms, No thongs.

I thought “No hat” was arbitrary and cupreous, but it was cooler with your hat off (even though the restaurant was air conditioned).

“No soiled clothes” and “No uniforms” seemed reasonable (but we were wearing our birding uniforms that were dusty)

In reality it's something a bit stranger than looking neat. In station country you've got a whole lot of blokes who all wear the same jeans and flannies day in day out. One of the only ways that they can look good, show off a bit, and try to go one up on their mates when they hit town is by buying a new hat. Then they go to the pub, get pissed, and discussion ensues over who's got the best hat..

It generally doesn't end well.

So, no hats.

(Obligatory counter example: blokes at the Crossing Inn wearing hats.)
posted by Ahab at 11:13 PM on December 21, 2010

no humbugging? but how shall I express my disdain for christmas?

posted by russm at 11:36 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bar, Humbug!

I really should have explained that better, shouldn't I.. I'm guessing Humbugging is another uniquely Australian pub custom that the OP would be interested in.

(The article is fairly shallow and slightly racist to my mind, but it's from The Australian newspaper and it gets the gist right.)
posted by Ahab at 4:30 AM on December 22, 2010

hmmm... well I guess that makes me the bloke who misses the context and then cracks a joke about something that isn't really joke material...

I hate it when I do that...
posted by russm at 5:54 AM on December 22, 2010

Nah, no worries, russm. It's my fault for dragging a thread about the fun side of bar fighting in Australia over to the grim side and all..

(and to be perfectly honest, the first three or four months I lived in the Kimberly, I wandered around saying Bah, Humbug! at inappropriate moments as well. It's just one of those words that doesn't mean the same thing as it does down here.)
posted by Ahab at 6:30 AM on December 22, 2010

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