“A lot of money is tainted—‘taint yours and ‘taint mine” is an old joke on the word “taint” (meaning “a trace of a bad or undesirable quality”) and the word “‘taint” (“it ain’t”). Another early form of the saying is, “Rockefeller’s money is doubly tainted—‘taint yours and ‘taint mine.”
“Don’t think money is ‘tainted’ simply because ‘taint yours” has been cited in print since January 1906, credited to T. K. Rockwood, a printer from Little Rock, Arkansas. The saying has often been credited to the writer Mark Twain (1835-1910), but there’s no documentary evidence to credit Twain for either coining or popularizing the saying.
3 January 1906, Daily Times-Enterprise (Jonesboro, AR), “‘Jest’ from the Jungles,” pg. 3, col. 4:
Don’t think money is “tainted” simply because ‘taint yours.
T. K. ROCKWOOD.
21 December 1906, Iowa State Register amd Farmer (Des Moines, IA), “Broad Furrows” by George W. Franklin, pg. 3, col. 3:
I have also heard of tainted money. A friend tells me that Rockefeller’s money is tainted. In giving a reason he says, “‘Taint yours and ‘taint mine.” Of course, ‘taint.
18 February 1907, The Bay of Plenty Times (NZ), pg. 2:
“Two Irishmen were talking about the Standard Oil Company,” said Mr. Henry Clews, an American financier, in a recent speech at Providence, Rhode Island. “‘Do you think Rockefeller’s money is tainted?’ said one. ‘Yes, it has two taints on it,’ said Pat; ‘tain’t yours and tain’t mine.’”
19 April 1907, Muskegon (MI) Daily Chronicle, “Not Servant of Rockefeller,” pg. 9, col. 1:
“General Booth has said that if tainted money was offered him he would accept it after he had washed it in the tears of widows and orphans. Would you accept tainted money?”
“General Booth seems to be fond of that expression, He used it fifteen years ago in Hengler’s circus, where he and I were holding meetings. He said it of the marquis of Queensberry. As for accepting tainted money, I want to tell you a story about two negro boys, in Boston, I think it was. They were talking of tainted money. One of the boys asked the other what tainted money was. His reply was: ‘It taint yours and taint mine.’ That’s the situation.”
(Rev. C. F. Aked of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in New York City—ed.)
19 April 1907, Boston (MA) Herald, pg. 6, col. 5:
The Rev. Dr. Aked, the new pastor of the Rockefeller church in New York, defines tainted money as something ‘taint yours and ‘taint mine. It’s t’other fellow’s, of course.
2 May 1907, Jackson (MO) Herald, pg. 5, col. 1:
A new definition for “tainted” money has come up—“taint yours, taint mine.”
Esar’s Comic Dictionary
Completely rev. and enl. ed.
By Evan Esar
New York, NY: Horizon Press
tainted money. Money which ‘taint yours and ‘taint mine.
The Modern Handbook of Humor
By Ralph Louis Woods
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
His money is twice tainted: ‘taint yours and ‘taint mine.