Hello and welcome to the everyday language idioms podcast. I’m Mark, today I’m going to talk about the idiom “moving the goalposts”.
So this is an idiom that is used when you want to express disapproval when someone has changed an agreement, or someone has changed a deal. So it’s often used in business, but you can also use it in your personal life too.
So this is a phrase that my son knows all about, so as you may know if you’ve listened to this podcast before I’ve got a young son, who’s around three years old, and any, any people, any parents, or any people with young brothers or sisters, or experience of being with young children, you may know that getting young ones, to do what you want is quite a hard thing.
It can be challenging, sometimes. So, for example, getting young people, young kids to eat their food and eat their vegetables and to sit down is quite difficult, at dinnertime. So one of the things we do to get him to eat all his vegetables is to say to him, “okay if you eat all your vegetables, then you can have something nice afterwards, you know, you can have jelly, or you can have ice-cream maybe”.
And he really loves jelly, and he really loves ice-cream. So usually, he’ll say, “okay, okay, I’ll eat my vegetables” because he once ice-cream and then he’ll eat a single vegetable in the like one carrot or half of…. one bite of a carrot and he’ll say, “I want ice-cream, I want an ice-cream now”, and my wife would say, “no”, you know, or I will say, “no, you need to eat all your vegetables”,”have your carrots and your peas and your broccoli”.
And eventually after much persuasion and encouragement, and reminders of ice-cream or jelly, he’ll eat all his vegetables, and then as soon as he’s, ate his last vegetable, he’ll say, “right, I want ice-cream now!” “can I have ice-cream?” And my wife will say, “okay before you have ice-cream, you have to have all your rice”.
She changes the deal because at first it’s just vegetables and then ice-cream, and now it’s vegetables and rice before ice-cream. And so he will get annoyed and go, “Oh horrible, I don’t want that, I don’t want it, I had all the vegetables,” you know that was the deal, and I say to her “you can’t move the goalposts” she changed the deal, you know, she said vegetables, or I said vegetables, as well, and now you’re saying rice, that’s unfair.
Say in business, and business negotiations this phrase is also used, for example, when, you know, two businesses are doing a deal, and at the last minute, one business changes the terms of the deal, you know, they change the contract. So my example comes from football, so last summer, in 2017, Liverpool and Barcelona football clubs were negotiating a price for Philippe Coutinho who was then the Liverpool player. And both teams were said to have agreed a price after some hard negotiating, you know, apparently it was like a hundred million pounds, and Liverpool had agreed to sell Coutinho for one hundred one hundred million pounds.
But then at the last minute, the newspapers had reported that they changed the deal. Now, they said they [Liverpool] wanted one hundred and forty million pounds, so a lot of paper said you know, Coutinho, he’s not moving to Barcelona, you know, Liverpool moved the goalposts, they changed the price, they wanted.
Okay, so you can use moving the goalposts when you want to say that a promise has been made, or a deal, or an agreement, and then it was changed, or the deal was broken because one side asked for more.
Okay, thanks very much. That’s today’s podcast episode about the idiom “moving the goalposts”.
Please let me know if you have ever had a situation where someone had moved the goalposts when agreeing something with you, okay thanks very much and I’ll see you next time, bye.
Intro music Happy by Setuniman, see his work on Pond5.com Royalty free licence
Outro music: Accordion Improvisation song by Tristan Lohengrin (CC attribution licence)
Photo by Chris Knight on Unsplash