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The Paradox of Catch 22: An archetypal no win situation
Posted by R. Wesley Lovil, Jun 9, 2013. 905 views. ID = 6303

The Paradox of Catch 22

Posted by R. Wesley Lovil, Jun 9, 2013. 905 views. ID = 6303
This post was written in 15 minutes.
Can you count how many idioms I used in this piece?
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The idiom, 'catch 22' is a rather recent addition to the American language coming to us from the novel Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. The book is about a bombardier named Captain John Yossarian flying in missions over Europe during World War ll. Each mission their squadron flies comes under heavy attach with planes being shot down and lives lost. Yossarian realizes that every time he goes into battle it is like a game of Russian roulette and the odds are growing that he will make it out of the war are dicey.

When Yossarian arrived at his base he was told that after flying ten missions he would be rotated back to England for R&R but when he had nine under his belt the requirement was changed to fifteen and then in the eleventh hour again to twenty just before he flew fifteen. As he now knew, he was in over his head and would never have enough missions to be returned to safety so he began to search regulations looking for loopholes to get out of duty. He could not claim he was under the weather because the Air Corp doctors would not accept his claims. Aha, but there was a way out, a Catch 22 so to speak; if a man were mentally unstable, he would be excused from going on missions. It was a piece of cake but it was after telling the medicos that he was off his rocker and too crazy to fly that he discovered the logic of Catch 22. He was told that bottom line, only a crazy man would want to fly these missions, and as the Captain had said he was too crazy to fly he must be sane and therefore his excuse was denied.

The cyclical conundrum of catch 22 is a classic example of chasing your own tail, a no win situation to those of us who must face it.
A typical example of catch 22 is being told by the head honchos that you can't have a particular job unless you have experience and yet you can't get experience until you get the job. Another is a university professor cannot receive tenure until he continues teaching but he cannot continue teaching if he doesn't have tenure. As for those who are now facing a catch 22 in their life I can only say I feel your frustration, just remember to keep your chin up and you are not alone.

Copyright 2013 R. Wesley Lovil. All rights reserved. has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.

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This post has been awarded 8 stars by 2 readers.
This post is part of a writing prompt: Idiom Origins

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