If a customer appears to be rude or sarcastic to the bar staff making remarks such as "Anytime this year will do" while waiting to be served, or "Look at the state of these ashtrays, you slob!" - and receives similarly insulting comments in return, without any sign of real anger, you can safely conclude that he or she is a regular. This ritual exchange of mock insults and backchat is common practice between bar staff, publicans and regulars in many pubs, and is again a means of expressing intimacy.
The etiquette of pub-arguments reflects the principles enshrined in the unwritten constitution governing all social interaction in the pub: theconstitution prescribes equality, reciprocity, the pursuit of intimacy and a tacit non-aggression pact. Any student of human relations will recognise these principles as the essential foundation of all social bonding, and social bonding is what pub-arguments are all about.
The pub-argument is an enjoyable game - no strong views or deeply held convictions are necessary to engage in a lively dispute. Pub regulars will often start an argument about anything, just for the fun of it.
A bored regular will often deliberately spark off an argument by making an outrageous or extreme statement, and then sit back and wait for the inevitable cries of Rubbish! or something less polite. The initiator will then hotly defend his assertion (which he secretly knows to be indefensible), and counter-attack by accusing his opponents of stupidity, ignorance or worse. The exchange may continue in this fashion for some time, although the attacks and counter-attacks will often drift away from the original issue, moving on to other contentious subjects and eventually focusing almost entirely on the personal qualities of the participants.