Life Is Hard and Then You Die

Tony Daniels? Edmund Vance Cooke? James J. Montague? Carolyn McKane? Tom Robbins? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There are many upbeat sayings on your website, but I would like you to explore a popular motto of the disaffected. Here are four versions:

Life is hard and then you die.
Life is rough and then you die.
Life sucks and then you die.
Life is a bitch, then you die.

Do you have any idea who coined this astringent adage of unhappiness and resignation?

Quote Investigator: An exact match for the fourth member of this family of sayings was printed in “The Washington Post” in 1982. The newspaper profiled a precocious 15-year-old and described a meeting of her high-school friends who held a wide-ranging discussion. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

…friends discussed everything from the definition of a lerp (“worse than a wimp, a totally worthless person”) to the meaning of life, a question that was addressed cynically by the composer, 15-year-old Tony Daniels, who said, “Life’s a bitch, then you die.”

The above statement is the earliest close match known to QI for this family of sayings. This citation is given in the “Yale Book of Quotations” 2 and the “Dictionary of Modern Proverbs”. 3

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Life Is Hard and Then You Die


  1. 1982 October 10, Washington Post, Brainchild by Sara Rimer, Start Page SM12, Quote Page SM17, Column 2, Washington, D. C. (ProQuest)
  2. 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section Modern Proverbs, Quote Page 528, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)
  3. 2012, The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Compiled by Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, Quote Page 141, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)