Catch-22

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

Title of the novel by Joseph Heller (1961), in which the main character feigns madness in order to avoid dangerous combat missions, but his desire to avoid them is taken to prove his sanity.

Noun[edit]

Catch-22 (plural Catch-22s)

  1. (idiomatic) A difficult situation from which there is no escape because it involves mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.
    For us it’s been a real Catch-22; when we have the time to take a vacation, we don’t have enough money and when we have enough money, we don’t have the time.
    • 1961, Joseph Heller, Catch-22:
      There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.

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