"Make a living, not a killing” has been cited in print since at least 1959 and has appeared on signs in the 2011 “Occupy Wall Street” protests. The saying plays upon the slang use of “make a killing” (i.e., a large, quick profit).
The Free Dictionary
make a killing
Fig. to have a great success, especially in making money.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
A large profit; a quick and profitable success in business, etc. slang (orig. U.S.).
1888 Texas Siftings 24 Mar. 13/2 Fred Jarvis‥getting $15,000 in The Louisiana State Lottery drawing.‥ Many‥would like to know something relative to the man who was fortunate enough to ‘make a killing’.
1912 T. Dreiser Financier xxx. 340 Railroad securities‥were considered weak under the present circumstances, and a great killing was expected.
1938 ‘N. Shute’ Ruined City i. 11 I’m a banker, of course. I don’t take tips, and I don’t make any great killings, but in my quiet way I get along all right.
17 May 1959, Cleveland (OH) Plain Dealer, pg. 19D, col. 1 classified ad:
WE’RE OUT TO MAKE
A LIVING NOT A KILLING
(Neal Furniture Sales—ed.)
Google News Archive
19 October 1969, The Robesonian (Lumberton, NC), “Garson Kanin Sings Of Broadway’s Ills,” pg. 6B, col. 6:
“Robert Anderson put it correctly when he said the theater should be a place to make a living, not a killing.”
Another Roadside Attraction
By Tom Robbins
New York, NY: Bantam Books
Perhaps the most astonishing characteristic of Plucky ‘s criminal career is the ethics with which he practices it. His fees are more than fair: he seeks to make a living, not a killing.
New York (NY) Times
Published: January 02, 1990
The game on Wall Street in the 1990’s will be to make a living, not a killing.
By David Mazzotta
Coral Springs, FL: Llumina Press
It (a shirt—ed.) said: Make a Living, Not a Killing.
Google News Archive
23 May 2007, Gainesville (FL) Sun, “Voice of the people,” pg. 8A, col. 3:
Perhaps the old adage, “Make a living, not a killing,” is the mantra we all should follow!
Utah Phillips on “Making a Living, Not a Killing”
Uploaded by mediagrrl9 on May 27, 2008
Amy Goodman interviews Utah Phillips for Democracy Now! in 2004. In part 5 of the interview, Utah tells how he started out in New York, fired his agent, and decided not to play music for profit.
Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer
October 19, 2011
A Call To Action to Fellow Business People
Like one of the signs says in Manhattan: “Make a living, not a killing”. My favorite slogan. A life based on that is more likely to be happy than one solely chasing the dollar.
New York City • Banking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Tuesday, October 25, 2011 • Permalink