Isn't there an equivocal sense to saying "I have a backlog of (something)"?

I have a backlog of work and would be unable to help you out on that.

I have a few outfits that I haven't shot yet -- have to keep up or there will be an unwanted backlog of outfits since September.source

I have a backlog of fruits that have been sitting in the bottom of the fridge for a couple of weeks now -- have to eat them now or else they are going to spoil!

My main reason for making yogurt this week, though, was that I had a growing backlog of milk in the fridge.source

My main reason for eating a stick of butter every day, though, was that I had a backlog of these sitting in the bottom of the freezer.


I have a backlog of work which will keep myself, my designer and my technician busy all through the fall.

I have an unexpected backlog of cash which should keep my family and myself safe from necessity in these times of hardship.

Some states have an unexpected backlog of money which will enable them to award new grantssource

Some colleges and universities have an unexpected backlog of money which will enable them to catch up on the longstanding housing shortage.

I have an unexpected backlog of cash this year. I'm going to buy a Porsche!

Please also consider these links:

  • What do you think 'backlog' means in each case?
    – Mitch
    Mar 3 '14 at 13:47
  • The usual sense is that of something that has to be dealt with: an accumulation of something, esp. uncompleted work or matters that need to be dealt with. [Google] Mar 3 '14 at 16:45
  • Based upon our conversation below, I would recommend you revise this question to include the usage about food and other items. It might help you.
    – David M
    Mar 3 '14 at 18:26
  • The latest revision makes your point easier to understand. Good work!
    – David M
    Mar 3 '14 at 20:39

The meaning of "have a backlog" in both cases is exactly the same: "have a backlog". The bad news vs. good news difference comes from the words thankfully and unfortunately.

This works for any and all expressions, not just this one.

  • Unfortunately, it's raining cats and dogs.
    Thankfully, it's raining cats and dogs.

  • Unfortunately, I own a big house.
    Thankfully, I own a big house.

  • Unfortunately, I am getting older.
    Thankfully, I am getting older.

  • Unfortunately, I am unemployed.
    Thankfully, I am unemployed.

  • Unfortunately, I am a mass murderer.
    Thankfully, I am a mass murderer.

  • I suppose it could be either good or bad that's it's raining cats and dogs if you're an ageing, unemployed mass murderer living in a big house… Mar 3 '14 at 13:49
  • 1
    It's actually entertaining and not too difficult to put the "unexpected" versions of those sentences into a meaningful context :) "Oh, you are afraid about me stealing your money? No need to worry, I am a mass murderer, not a thief!"
    – oerkelens
    Mar 3 '14 at 14:04
  • @RegDwigHt Sorry to have to disagree with you on that. If you check back the meaning of "backlog" online, you'll see for yourself that what generally prevails is the definition "a quantity of work that should have been done already, but has not yet been done, and have to be dealt with", which undoubtedly has a negative connotation to it. If I intentionally picked examples starting with "thankfully" and "hopefully", it's mostly for convenience purposes, but also to make the difference more apparent. Please consider these links: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/backlog
    – Elian
    Mar 3 '14 at 16:23
  • I am not seeing where you are going with this. "Mass murderer" obviously has a negative connotation, too. All examples I provided have a default connotation. That is the very reason I included them.
    – RegDwigнt
    Mar 3 '14 at 16:38

Based upon our conversation in comments:

Backlog conveys a sense of unfinished tasks that need to be completed. As Reg states below, it does carry a mildly negative connotation that can be modified situationally. I won't reiterate his excellent answer here.

If you are speaking of unused items or goods, you would use the term surplus.

Surplus means an amount or quantity greater than needed. Definition link here.

If you want to convey a sense that this is a negative, you would say: unwanted surplus.

If you'll excuse me, I have a backlog of unfinished reports to get to.


I have an unwanted surplus of goat cheese. It is going to rot before I can sell it!
I have an unexpected surplus of cash this year, I'm going to buy a Ferrari!

I think this fits the meaning you are looking for far better than backlog.

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