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Sounds like something a snake oil salesman on the wild west could come up with. Can the origins be traced?

Edit:

In a transcript of a state trial from 1798:

What did you give it him for? Did he make use of it? Was it to protect his copper from being changed that you did it? — He was very officious to make things in a light easy way without much trouble, to make nis bread light. But I did it more in fun than profit.

This is clearly not the same phrase, but it seems to be more than an accidental use of those two words togather.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I don't know about the origins, but it is definitely not a recent expression. As the following examples found with Google Books indicate, the expression is used since the 19th century at least:

Pamphlets, Religious: Miscellaneous (1847)

It matters not if you call it a "fish pond" for fun and profit„or a five cent chance to get a quilt at a draw or a raffle given by a Ladies' Aid Society of Church, or the profits on editing a newspaper for one day, or running a railroad

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The American Angler (1897)

I am now fixing up some trout ponds, a pet scheme of mine, in which I shall propagate trout for fun and profit. The law here is, that no one can sell trout in market unless from private ponds, and I shall of course be in the game.

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I found the phrase back to 1833 (check) in an English translation of a book by the French novelist Charles Paul de Kock called The Modern Cymon. Here, three characters have hatched a plan to simulate a two-headed man they hope others will pay to see:

"fun and profit" clip from Google Books

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