He wouldn't shout if a shark bit him!

The very first pub we come to, well, it's there we'll have a spree
And to every one that comes along it's 'Have a drink on me!'

Click go the Shears, Australian Folk Song

The pronounced Australian desire to be a good fellow with all and sundry, to be a "sport", has probably had a considerable influence on the development of that useful institution, the shout.

The Australian Language, 1945

Others with the respect due to the long established tradition itself take their drinking very seriously and know to the last man the set of rules concerning 'shouts' and the sin of 'dragging the chain'. 

Jonathan King, Waltzing Materalism, 1976

They returned to the hotel and the four joined in a "shout", in which the applicant missed one round.

Justice Charles, R v Taffe [1998], VSCA (30 July 1998)

A recently shouted jug with the obligatory pots

To shout is Australian meaning to buy something for someone.  In a drinking context, it means to purchase a round of drinks (ie one for each person), often with the expectation of reciprocation.   This was its original meaning.  The consequence of the shouting ethic is, of course, a fairly rapid and consistent pace of drinking.  Consider the following scenario:

  1. One bloke buys a jug of beer (the 'first shout')
  2. Four blokes have their pots filled (typically by the person who shouted, he fills his glass last)
  3. There is one beer left in the jug
  4. The fastest drinker gets the last beer (or in some cases, the person who shouted gets the last beer)
  5. As the jug is empty, the person next to the person who shouted last either:
  6. But it does not end there. Now, of course, there is no chance that the original shouter will be going anywhere, as he just shouted every mongrel at the table, and he has three jugs coming his way. 
  7. Similarly, people who have been shouted feel as they cannot leave the table, for fear of being considered bludgers (see comments below).

Hence the shouts go round and round the table till either:

But don't take our word for it, consider instead the views of the honourable Justice McIlwaine of the Industrial Relations Court of Australia in Garside v Hazelton Air Services Pty Ltd (970119):

Again, Flight Attendant Kinnell started the shout and bought the first round of drinks, Captain Garside bought the next round. Three, (3) schooners (15ml per glass) of full strength beer were consumed in each shout. The next shout was First Officer McGeehan and he bought "1 schooner of full strength beer for Captain Garside and an orange drink for Flight Attendant Kinnell." He broke the shout by not buying a drink for himself...[ - note he had to do this on HIS shout]. There is evidence that is favourable to First Officer McGeehan as he broke the shout and as well "sat" on his last drink at the Terminus hotel...  The evidence of all three crew members reminds me of the former legendary "6 O'clock Swill" days when many rounds of beer were ordered and drunk just before the hotel was forced to close at 6.00 pm. Since then there has been a substantial change in the attitude of the community towards the consumption of alcohol.

Or perhaps not! This concept is so entrenched in the Australian culture, that a tourist (especially an American one) should ignore it at their peril!  'Na mate, my shout', or 'wadda want, my shout' are typical examples of shout usage (well, to be honest, 'your shout mate' is more typical).  Now while it may appear to foreigners that Australians are the most generous hosts on earth, and will indeed rush to shout you a beer if you are new in town, there is no species of human lower in the Australian culture than the bludger.  A bludger (or bludging bastard, if you will), is some who bludges off you (in this case, they bludge beer, which is much much worse than bludging a dart or ciggie).  That is, they are more than happy to drink (or swill) your shouts, but they fail to reciprocate when it is their turn.  Let there be no confusion here: hell hath no fury like an Australian whose shout ethic has been violated. One of the authors was burned several times in North America when the shouting ethic was not reciprocated, and not only was he very very pissed off, but the story was met with shocked disbelief back home ("The bastards!"). Further, an Australian can even feel uncomfortable being shouted beers and not being able to return the shouts.   Even when one of the authors was shouting a couple of diggers a few beers on Anzac day, the only day in the year all Australians are reverent, one of the diggers insisted that he shout a round, claiming, "No, I'm not going to bludge off you".  

'Oh no you don't', the first man said. 'You can't big note yourself by shoutin' for us an' then pissin' off. You got two more pots to come yet'

John O'Grady, It's Your Shout, Mate!, 1972

Like most aspects of culture, it is very difficult NOT to shout in a drinking situation, so show some cultural sensitivity next time you are shouted several beers by a generous Aussie (As mentioned, it is quite possible that the Australian will not allow you to shout, but nevertheless the attempt should be made). 

Being a man also consists of being quite generous in small ways, especially in 'shouting drinks'.

Ronald Conway, The Great Australian Stupor, 1976. 

The following is an example of what can go wrong (Nino Culotta, They're a weird mob, 1957):

Yeah, English is a bastard of a language
I think Australian is a bastard of language
He laughed, You're learning already. Your turn.
What is my turn?
Your turn to shout
Why should I shout?
Because I shouted you
I did not hear you shout at me
He thought for a while and said, I get ut. When you buy a bloke a beer, it's called a shout, see?
Why is that?
I haven't a clue, but that's what it's called. I shouted for you, now it's your turn to shout for me.
I was only a little thirsty. I do not think I wish another drink.
He looked quite stern, In this country, if you want to keep out of trouble, you always return a shout, see?
Is this the custom?
Bloody oath, it's the custom. Your turn.

Elisabeth Wynhausen from the National Times (1978) made the following observations after observing Sydney pubs:

[shouting] symbolises entree to a group (and for that matter, makes pointed an exclusion). It binds a group together. It can serve as a display of one's wealth or generosity. It publicly demonstrates a drinker's capacity.  You can drink from here to San Francisco and you always find there's one fox in the school and he foxes all the bloody time. The shout involves contractual obligations which are generally taken seriously. It is shocking form for a drinker to drop out of a round before it is his turn to buy.  In some pubs, especially in the country the offence of jumping the shout will be widely publicised and long remembered. The drinker who forgets his turn will probably be resoundingly abused. Someone who has to leave after the first drink is expected to offer to stand the round. ....It is a common site in any pub to see a drinker holding a brimming glass being handed another one. There is usually fair pressure to keep up the pace.  Getting drunk is no breach of form. Drinking too little often is.

It is not surprising that alcohol and weight loss professionals advise people to avoid shouts.  In 1978 the Superintendent of the NSW Traffic Accident Research Bureau, attempted to attribute the road toll to the shouting system:

People feel they must keep up with every round. They have to learn to be strong when others try and force drinks on them. We're trying to break the 'shout' system.

But you might as well ask a true blue Aussie to stop breathing.   Indeed, if one doesn't join into a shout, then one is in danger of being considered a piker or a 'girl' (or some variation of the theme attacking the offender's sexuality).  

There are differing theories on the origin of the term. What is known that it is a very old Australian custom (as so far as Australian customs can be old!).  Even Raffaello Carboni, an italian immigrant and gold miner who naturally spoke English as a second language, stated in The Eureka Stockade (1855):

You shouted nobblers round for all hands - that's all right; it's no more than fair and square now for the boys to shout for you.

One theory is that it derives from the early colonial expression of standing shot or paying someone else's bill (Bill Hornadge, The Great Australian Slanguage, 1980).  Douglas Gane traced it back to the generosity of the gold miners in the 1850s, but was in his opinion, 'more of a tax than a gratuity':

Shouting, from the beginning, became an acknowledged system. Long after the excitement of 1852 and 1853 had subsided, a man could not enter a hotel and order a glass of wine without offering the same to all who were standing at the bar....

The Australian Brewers' Journal, on the other hand, had other ideas about the origin and practice of shouting (1855):

We believe the term 'shouting', now so well known all through Australia, originated in the early digging days when a lucky miner, intent on 'knocking down his pile', was accustomed to go into the road and shout for all hands to come and drink with him, so that in time 'shouting' came to mean 'standing drinks for the crowd'.

The journal was against the practice however, as representatives of a brewer or other alcohol providers were expected to shout every time they walked into a customer's hotel:

....we do think that it is very absurd that 'shouting' should be considered a necessary part of any business transaction, and it is a notorious fact that, particularly in country districts, it is often regarded in this light. We are aware that a deeply rooted and long standing custom of this sort is not easy to abolish, and we fear that for many years to come, it will continue in force...

In 1897 the wowsers struck again, having gotten their way (or done their best to stop others getting their way) with bar maids, they formed an 'Anti-Shouting League' in Melbourne.  Faced with this cultural onslaught, the Australian Brewers' Journal responded with words that in a lot of ways capture why an Australian has traditionally been different from other races, and these century old words should perhaps be pondered over by those who currently lead us down the path to American cultural and linguistic assimilation, as well as those being assimilated:

"What will you have boys? Come, nominate your poison.' Alas! the days when these cheery words reached our ears are coming to an end, for lo! according to the new League, the man that wants his amber beer or ambrosial nip must henceforth and for ever indulge in moody and morose solitude, or swallow the 'poison' behind the bar door, wipe his lips, and escape into the street again. All the fun and joy and good-companionship in the world are to be 'sat upon' with stern, uncompromising austerity, and so far as sociality is concerned, mankind is to be resolved into an incoherent mass of tangential individuals, each working out his own and only salvation for himself. Well, after all, 'shouting' is a jolly decent old custom, and in the opinion of all the men who regard life as something that demands sympathy, and must have sympathy if it is worth living at all, it is a custom that will die hard. Heaven save us from men that look to money as their only god! Of course, everyone knows that shouting makes the money fly, that at times it makes the head the next morning feel a size or two large for the hat; but the money finds its way back into the pocket again sometime or other, and the head recedes to the original and normal dimensions, while often the recollection of the symposium remains green in the memory for years, and the wit and fancy, 'the feast of reason and the flow of soul', lighten the full tedium of life and the cares of the world. Like everything else, drink is neither an unmixed blessing nor an unmitigated evil.   If on one hand it increases the miseries of existence, on the other it gives the nepenthe for misfortune; but if you take away its function as the promoter of society, as the agency for bringing men together, and thus rubbing off corners, you take away at once the main apology for the mash tun and the still.

.... Shouting is not an abuse. Of course, it may lead to abuse, but, in itself, it is one of the best features of the drinking custom. The man is a mean dog that brutalises himself with his private bottle, or sneaks into a public house and sneaks out again after gulping down a pint of "tanglefoot"... A sixpence or a shilling spent in "oil of friendship" is well spent.

Amazingly, on 28 November 1916 a bill was introduced in the Victorian Parliament by Mr Blackburn to ban shouting! He said it would:

make it an offence for any person in any licensed premises or club to sell liquor to be drunk on premises, unless the liquor were paid for by the person supplied; and also an offence for any person, other than the person who paid for the drinks to consume them.

Fortunately it was defeated 37:10 (Australian Brewers Journal 20 April 1922).  Even before that, the Western Australian Parliament sought to impose a 5 pound anti-shouting penalty (1915).  The bill was defeated by the Speaker's casting vote (ie. the numbers were even but the speaker had voted against the bill so it wasn't carried).

You would think these days were long gone. But no, Australian pollies know no bounds. More recently the officious premier of NSW Bob Carr proposed some of the most ridiculous, unworkable and offensive laws ever considered in this country. Specifically, under Carr's grand plan it could cost an Aussie up to $1100 if they shouted someone who is "intoxicated". What does this mean? If you shout a group of blokes a beer, and someone has had, what, more than 1.5 beers, then you are breaking the law?

NSW's abstemious Premier, Bob Carr, is planning laws that might end the great Aussie shout.

One drunk mate, and the shout costs $1100, Sydney Morning Herald, November 19 2004

Shame, Bob Carr, shame. We're not sure what fairyland country you live in, but it certainly isn't Australia. Perhaps if he wasn't wasting so much time on his egotistical diaries he publishes every year or if he attended the odd sporting fixture he would realise this. You've gone too far mate. You're in la la land.

Why not try and fix Sydney's many other problems first.

MAGIC MILLIONS co-owner John Singleton ensured every mug punter walked away a winner yesterday after shouting the bar at the Gold Coast's biggest race day... "There will be free beer – at the public bar – no members," said Singleton. "He's a bloody champion," said Mr Laing-Smith, who was having little luck on the punt... "Singo, you're a dead-set legend."

Singo shouts for 14,000, The Sunday Mail, 9/1/05

"I think 'shouting' is one of our major problems," foundation chief executive officer Daryl Smeaton told reporters. "If you get in a shout of more than five people, you're going to be drinking over the safe drinking levels if you go through a full shout. "That's something we really need to start thinking about. "Is shouting - that time-honoured tradition in this country - is it good for us in the long term but more particularly, is it good for us in the short term?"

'Give shouts the shove', Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 16 2005

A couple of grips (electricians) approached Crowe and producer Uberto Pasolini to "talk some sense into them" on Friday afternoon before one suggested "the least you could do is shout us a beer." Crowe promptly organised the alcohol as the crew fired up a Friday night barbecue.

Crowe versus Kidman,, Feb 16 2005

CALLS of "your shout at the tuckshop" rang out in the quadrangle at Kingscliff High yesterday as student surfing sensation Stephanie Gilmore went back to school.

School gives teen surf star top marks, The Courier Mail, 9 March 2005

Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers