My informant tells me that the first time he heard the phrase, he was seven and complaining about the rain on a beach day. His mother then sighed, and said “C’est la vie”, which translated roughly into “Such is life.”
Me: “What does this saying mean to you?”
Informant: “It means that some times you can’t change things and just have to accept life as it is.”
Analysis: This proverb may also have to do with dealing with bad luck, as sometimes the world may seem to intentionally mess with your plans. It is a phrase often said when life isn’t fair, but one has to deal with life. Similar American sayings are, “That’s the way the ball bounces”, or the more slang term, “Shit happens.”
In modern American culture, a popular response to “C’est la vie” is, “la vie”, a pun on the pronunciation of the words. (C’est la vie = Say ‘la vie’). This joke was present in the romantic comedy film, Easy A, featuring Emma Stone and Penn Badgley.
My informant was born in France, but currently goes to school at UC Irvine.