I knew someone when

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From the formulaic phrase by which speakers begin reminiscence of now-famous persons.

Phrase[edit]

I knew someone when

  1. Used upon hearing of a success of an acquaintance, often ironically for minor successes
    • 1915, "Interesting People: Charles Bullard: A Famous Photographer of Cats", in "The American Magazine"
      His friends thought him crazy, as friends always think when a man has an original idea and acts on it. Now, when his friends speak of him they invariably add, "I knew him when—"
    • 1918, Western Electric News
      Of course when your school chum comes in from the old home town you want to send him back a life-long member of the "I-knew-him-when Club." You picture him back home, just a wee bit superior, as befits a friend of the great, holding forth to the boy's at the Sunshine Athletic Club.
    • 1920, George Ade, I Knew Him When--: A Hoosier Fable Dealing with the Happy Days of Away Back Yonder
    • 1971, W. A. Mambert, The Elements of Effective Communication: Idea, Power, Tactics, page 146
      The classical example of this is the "I knew him when" syndrome. Consider your immediate family. They know you as you really are, if anyone does.
    • 2008, Lisa Tucker, The Cure for Modern Life page 89
      "Well, congratulations. On the speech, everything." She stood up straighter and forced a smile. "I can always say I knew him when."