backlog 9

backlog: meaning and explanation

A backlog is a word we use to describe any work, jobs, or chores that we need to work through or complete.

This word communicates the idea that this work has built up or accumulated, maybe because we cannot work quickly enough to keep up with the new work, or maybe because we were away or busy and unable to complete the tasks.

You can specify what kind of work has built up by saying ‘an email backlog’ or ‘a backlog of emails’.

When we talk about doing the work, it is common to talk about working through a backlog or clearing a backlog. e.g. After 6 hours, I had finally worked through my backlog of work and could focus on that afternoon’s meeting.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: North America

first day back my holiday my email .
I my first day back work after my holiday to clear my email .

…I spent my first day back at work trying to clear…

Notice the two useful verb patterns to spend time doing something and to try to do sth.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Can you think of a time when you had to clear a massive backlog? What caused it?
  • The origin of this idiom makes it easier to understand the meaning. Can you find out where the word ‘backlog’ comes from?

Photo by Pär Pärsson on Unsplash

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1 year ago

I remember a time when I was working at a clothing factory and I had to keep up with the rest of the chain of production, but I fell behind as the sewing machine had broken down. By the time it was repaired, tons of clothing had already built up and I had to work longer to clear my backlog of clothing. I worked through it after two days, it was a bit overwhelming. I looked into this idiom and I found this: “it was used, principally in America and Canada, in the late 17th century to describe the largest… Read more »

1 year ago

I spent last week trying to clear my backlog of texts to write. There’d been a lot to be corrected, but now I finally feel I’m free to do other things.
I’m not sure about the use of past perfect, but I used it anyway rsrs

1 year ago
Reply to  Chris

hahaha I think I’ve been confusing the use of simple past and present perfect (Because I heard that in my language is more common to use SP than PP, and in English is the opposite), but at the end I used the past perfect. Theoretically, I know the use of PP (in actions that happened before an action in the past), but when I need to use it in practice, everything goes wrong hehehe
Thank you very much, what you say makes sense and next time I’ll get it right

1 year ago

I think that every office worker met with such activity in their life)). And in most cases, people need to cope with such a backlog namely after continuous vacation or holiday.
For me – ‘the backlog’ is something similar to ‘clean Augean stables’ – boring, tedious and painstaking activity which, though, should be done and definitely takes its roots from ancient times. Maybe from ancient Greek mythology, as well.

1 year ago
Reply to  Chiffa

My experience with “backlog” is very common, especially when I work in adminstration. Last month, I took holiday for one month and I came back with huge work and tasks and the first week I try to clear all the backlog of tasks.

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