Did someone say to you that it 'takes one to know one' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
The phrase ‘it takes one to know one’ is a retort that one can use when they are the recipient of a negative accusation, which pimples that the accuser also has the same fault. This is considered a childish, and juvenile come back to an insult.
For instance, if your brother says that you’re an idiot, you could say, ‘it takes one to know one,’ implying that only an idiot would be able to recognize another idiot.
Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we see that 'takes one to know one' was hardly used at all until the early 1940s and that the phrase really started picking up steam during the 1950s.
We find an example of this phrase being used in “Behold the Witness” by Andrew Bowman, published in Frontier in 1952:
“If we bother to justify our adulation of the Witness at all, we do so by repeating the old saw that it takes one to know one. Now, whether this is true or not, it remains a patent fact that one of the surest ways– in any age– of establishing oneself in journalistic power and economic security is by writing a book witnessing for the true faith.”
The August 27, 1975 edition of the periodical Computerworld also uses the phrase:
The old adage, “It takes one to know one,” is pure understatement when referring to the study of the brain– in neurobiology, it takes many “brains” to know even one brain cell. So at the University of Iowa’s Department of Physiology and Biophysics, investigators have joined forces with computer systems in pioneering a method enabling a three-dimensional look at brain cells.”
A 1974 publication from the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol Information of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also contains this phrase as a part of a story referencing a Mary Worth comic strip:
“I’ve spotted other alcoholic women the past few weeks. It takes one to know one,” suburban housewife Glenna Harwood says in an episode of the popular comic strip Mary Worth. Mrs. Worth responds, “Yes, I’m afraid the incidence is increasing.” Glenna adds, “The causes are the same: depression, boredom, loneliness, marital problems.”
How would 'takes one to know one' be used in a sentence?
Let’s take a look at some examples:
The phrase ‘it takes one to know one’ is often considered a childish retort to an insult, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear it used by adults as well. If someone insults you and you say, ‘it takes one to know one,’ you are implying that they are guilty of the same faults.
Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!
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