Shit happens is a common vulgar slang phrase that is used as a simple existential observation that life is full of unpredictable events, either "Así es la vida" or "C'est la vie". The phrase is an acknowledgment that bad things happen to people seemingly for no particular reason. The phrase was first observed in 1964, but wasn't used in a print publication until 1983. Alternately said, albeit less vulgarly, as "stuff happens". A possible origin is "it happens", which rhymes with it.
The fact that people have been remarking that shit happens has been attested from 1964, when Carl Werthman quoted an example in his UCB MA thesis; the relevant excerpt was published in The American City (edited by Anselm L. Strauss) in 1968.
In a review of Fred Shapiro's 2006 work The Yale Book of Quotations, The New Yorker critic Louis Menand stated that it is "extremely interesting" that the phrase "Shit happens" was introduced to print by Connie Eble, in a publication identified as UNC–CH Slang in 1983.
In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, during Forrest's three and a half year run across the country, a man approaches him to ask a question. In the process, Forrest steps in some dog dropping to which he comments, "It happens." This inspires the man to put the phrase on a bumper sticker, which he makes a lot of money off. One of those stickers is seen on the bumper of a vehicle that ends up crashing on the road.
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- "Shit happens". Psychology Today. New York. May 1995. Retrieved 25 November 2007.
- "Vic & Sade (pg 02) 1940–1941". Sound Recording. archive.org. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
- "Jeb Bush Says 'Stuff Happens' In Response to Gun Violence". ABC News. 2 October 2015.
- The datum: "That shit happens all the time." In "The Police as Perceived by Negro Boys", ed. Carl Werthman; in The American City: A Source Book of Urban Imagery, edited by Anselm L. Strauss (Chicago: Aldine, 1968), p. 285. Here in Google Books. A footnote says that Werthman's short contribution to the book is "Excerpted from 'Gang members and the police', unpublished M.A. thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1964."
- Menand, Louis (2007). "Notable Quotables (Book review of "Yale Book of Quotations", ed. Fred Shapiro)". The New Yorker (19 February 2007).