"Shit Happens"

Mon Feb 2 22:12:41 UTC 2004

        Westlaw is slightly earlier, with this 12/6/87 article from the St. Petersburg Times:  >>The stickers that irk Banjanin are the same ones that surf shop salespeople say are most popular: "S--- Happens," a scatological sigh only recently surpassed by "How's My Driving? Call 1-800-EAT-S---" <<

        I recall seeing the "Shit Happens" bumper stickers in Boston and Cambridge in the mid-1980s.  There were other bumper stickers in the same style, the only one of which I now recall is "Take It Easy."  Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, I believe these were intended to be motivational messages for those in recovery from substance abuse.  Doubtless not everyone with a "Shit Happens" bumper sticker was in recovery.  A 5/9/88 article from the Boston Globe provides more detail:

        >>MALDEN -  In the Sober Camel bookstore, the unmentionables are kept behind the counter. No, not Playboy or Penthouse.

    Rather, bumper stickers that say, simply, "S--- happens," although the stickers spell it out. They are by far the raciest thing in inventory.

     They're also a big seller. For into the Sober Camel come people to whom the "S" word has indeed happened: chronic overeaters, drug and alcohol abusers and those who have been through the looking glass in other ways.

    The Sober Camel was opened two months ago by Kevin Doherty and Allen Gallant, recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. They started with self-help books and have expanded into greeting cards, gifts, hats, tapes and crystals, all dealing with the same issue: clean up your act. <<

        I don't know if the proprietors of the Sober Camel designed their own bumper stickers (in which case they would have used a pre-existing catch-phrase) or obtained them from a supplier who may or may not have originated the phrase.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: Fred Shapiro [mailto:fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Friday, January 30, 2004 6:37 PM
Subject: "Shit Happens"

The earliest hit on Nexis for "shit happens" is Washington Post, 8 June
1988, referring to a bumper sticker.  There is some slightly earlier
evidence on Google groups.

Can anyone shed any other light on the early history of this expression?
Jesse, what is the earliest evidence in the HDAS files? the OED files?

Fred Shapiro

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