June 18, 2019

Live. Laugh. Love. Why?

“There are more than 2,000 results for the motto “Live Laugh Love” on Amazon, including decorative signs, throw pillow covers, wall sculptures, candles, decals, and area rugs, all bearing some formation of it. As of this publication, Etsy lists 9,347 things for sale that feature the dreaded credo; there are also 2.6 million results for the hashtag #livelaughlove on Instagram. You can scroll endlessly on Pinterest — past tattoos, rocks, cakes, even a sewing machine, all emblazoned with those three words — without reaching an end point. And if you step inside a Target or a Marshall’s, it’ll likely become apparent how exhaustively the trend has infiltrated affordable home décor.

Maybe it seems like the slogan has been with us forever, which is nearly true: A short investigation by House Beautiful traces the saying to a 1904 Bessie Anderson Stanley poem called “Success,” often misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Stanley’s relatives claim her poem won the $250 first prize in a contest for the best essay on “What constitutes success,” published in a 1905 issue of The Lincoln Sentinel. The words — “He achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much” — can now be found inscribed on her tombstone.

Who is buying this stuff, you might ask? It has to be someone, otherwise there would not be so much of it. According to the internet, and supported anecdotally, middle-aged white women and moms are the likeliest triple-L perpetrators. On an AskReddit thread entitled “People who have ‘live, laugh, love’ somewhere in their home: why?” (commented on by 20,000 people total), the answers ranged from “It came in my White Person Starter Kit” (a response with 1,200 upvotes) to “My mom gave it to me and thought it was the best gift she ever came up with. It goes up around the holidays” (1,800 upvotes). Many commenters confessed their moms or older relatives gifted an “LLL” sign to them, but most were too lazy or respectful to get rid of it.”

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