By and by
‘By and by’
The phrase ‘by and by’, meaning ‘in a little while’ or ‘at some time in the future’ has been common in American English parlance since the 19th century. In spite of its simplicity, it is a haunting phrase, much more powerful than any alternatives such as the two above.
‘By and by’ is the title given to an African American spiritual of unknown origin. It was printed in Folk Song of the American Negro (Nashville, Tennessee: Fisk University, 1907), an account written and edited by John Wesley Work (II)*. The text in this edition was as follows:
Oh, by and by, by and by, I’m a-going to lay down this heavy load.
I know my robe’s going to fit a-me, well. I’m a-going to lay down...
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