This one is short but fun. I often state (ahem…complain) that I have a backlog of work I’m trying to plow through. And you all know what I mean.

But back in the 1680s when the word was coined, backlog meant something far different. In fact, it was a very literal log. As in, wood. That you put in the fire. It was the biggest log in the load, placed at the back of the fire to concentrate the heat and keep the blaze going strong. Which, if you’re like me, cues an “Oh, of course!”

So…how did it change its meaning?

Well, in the 1880s, backlog had taken on a figurative sense of “something stored for later use.” That transition kinda makes sense, right? You might have set aside good logs to act as those backlogs.

Well, over the course of the next 50 years, that “stored up” meaning shifted in “unfulfilled orders,” which was likely influenced by the other meaning of the word log–a record.

So there we have it!

Word Nerds Unite!

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