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Watching an episode of Ruddy Hell, the phrase "I saw you coming" was printed on a shop and the shop owner used it when talking to the rich lady. The context was that he sold stuff second hand and even openly admitted that it was only worth "a fiver" when he bought it. He then exclaims: "But I saw you coming ..." which apparently is the excuse for a much higher price when selling.

Now, I get the approximate meaning from the context, obviously. However, how would native speakers explain the exact meaning of the phrase?

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see also: "what the market will bear" –  Ben Voigt Apr 30 '11 at 16:18
    
@Ben : thanks for the reference. –  0xC0000022L Apr 30 '11 at 18:14
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This question is much less explicit than I guessed by the title –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 30 '11 at 20:53
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2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

This is quite a common phrase where I'm from...

'Saw you coming' is used to somewhat comical effect and what you saw was a reduction to the asburd - this would never be used in that context but instead, say, among friends:

Friend A: Check out my new branded watch, it only cost me £100!

Friend B: They saw you coming, it's a fake! [laughing ensues]

In this sense, what 'Friend B' is trying to say is that the seller would have known the watch was only worth, say, £25, and to somebody else may well have sold it it for such a price; but 'Friend A' was naive, or for whatever other reason, the seller had made a prejudgment (and preparations) based on experience which saw him trick you into paying a higher price.

The bottom line is that you were played, cheated, gazumped etc.

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+1, though to me I was gazumped means someone, having agreed orally (but not yet legally) to sell to me at one price, then decides to sell to somebody else at a higher price. –  Henry Apr 30 '11 at 14:20
    
@Henry: Or, 'to swindle or overcharge', right? thefreedictionary.com/gazumped –  Grant Thomas Apr 30 '11 at 14:21
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@Mr. Disappointment: I had followed that link. The meaning in England is more specific. See for example Wikipedia. Some other online dictionaries define it as a last-minute property price increase, such as Investopedia. I would be want to seeing non-dictionary uses outside this rather restricted context before accepting what thefreedictionary says. –  Henry Apr 30 '11 at 14:29
    
@Henry: I understand that, and the that there is a recognised practice of gazumping; I did try to make the meaning obvious and hopefully, now given these comments also, it will be clear to the OP and other readers. –  Grant Thomas Apr 30 '11 at 14:39
    
The phrase "they saw you coming" is also commonly used in the US, implying you're so obviously a sucker, even a stranger could tell at a distance. –  Bob Murphy Apr 30 '11 at 17:19
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In this case the extra meaning comes from the idea that if you see a particularly gullible person coming towards you you might raise your prices in order to extract the maximum possible value from the transaction.

Alternatively it could be that he is blackmailing her because he saw her "coming" (and implicitily recorded it).

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thanks. I reckon it'd be the first meaning. The sketch (or rather a series of sketches with the same theme) is pretty obvious. –  0xC0000022L Apr 30 '11 at 18:18
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