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How to describe L.A. in three words

Where do you start when describing Los Angeles? 

"L.A. is a constellation of microclimates and microcosms, a library with dozens of special collections," wrote Meghan Daum. "A 20-minute drive can bring a temperature change of 15 degrees. Crossing an intersection can feel like crossing a border between countries."

Some have depicted the city as youthful, irresponsible and somewhat complacent. In a recent column, Jim Newton wrote of how L.A. Chamber of Commerce president Gary Toebben characterized the region: "Los Angeles, he said, is like a kid from a wealthy family who inherited a bunch of money and, just because he still has some, thinks he's done great for himself."

Herein lies the challenge in capturing this vibrant, diverse and sprawling city of nearly 4 million residents: so many words, and so many perspectives. While the sun washes Los Angeles' disparate corners in the same glow, it casts vastly different shadows and highlights a variety of characteristics depending on what street you might be standing or driving on. 

We invited our Twitter followers to capture that variety in just three words.

Some of the responses: "Home sweet home." "Warm in November." "City of dreamers." "Stanley Cup champs." And, of course, "traffic, traffic, traffic."

At the bottom of this post, you can check out some of the highlights. 

In addition to canvassing folks on Twitter, I did a short lap around parts of downtown this week to compare perspectives from the tangible world. Some focused on the things that bring us together, others on the things that push us apart.

One visitor from Barcelona, Spain, called the city "lonely," but he quickly followed up with the more hopeful word "opportunities." 

Typically, folks balanced the good with the critical. So one woman's "crowded" and "high-priced" was followed by "fun." Although we did get a few submissions along the line of "hell on earth," "almost always burning," "no football team" and "fake and bake." 

While we absolutely embrace #LAin3words, we can't quite take full credit for the hashtag. Truth be told, it was inspired by the hashtag #NYCin3words, which was trending on Twitter after Stephen Colbert issued the the fast-on-your-feet hashtag wars challenge to contestants on the Comedy Central show "@midnight." 

Not to set off an East Coast-West Coast hashtag battle, but a tsunami of civic pride overtook us when we saw mention of the Big Apple. Why not the City of Angels as well? So we issued the challenge to our readers

It's not too late to weigh in. What's your L.A. in three words? (And if you just can't boil it down to three words, you can write more here in the comments section or play our Mad Libs-style game to describe your neighborhood.) 

Give us your three, whether you feel, as Jack Kerouac wrote, that "L.A. is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities," or like Randy Newman sings, "Everybody's very happy 'cause the sun is shining all the time." 

Want to be part of the conversation? Chat us up  @latimesreaders

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