Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Catch 22 : Origin, Meaning and Example

What does Catch 22 mean? Origin, meaning and examples?.
The easy part is the origin. Catch 22 refers to the novel by Joseph Heller , (with the same name), first published in 1961. So, as sayings go, this is a relatively new one.
For starters and to get the show on the road, the following passage from the novel

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's 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. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," Yossarian observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed."

This is the most frequently cited passage that one finds on the Internet that endeavors to define Catch 22. It is not the only one; there are a number of examples in the novel.
Now the meaning part.
A Catch 22 situation is a lose-lose or a no-win situation. One gets involved in a circular reasoning exercise with no logical or practical answer. Any which way you lose. In the novel the Catch 22 principle is directed towards Government and specifically Military bureaucracy, but the concept is used oftentimes in ordinary day-to-day experiences.
The word catch appears to mean a snag or a problem. Oxford Dictionary as follows “ an unexpected or hidden obstacle or drawback”
The number 22 appears to have no special significance. Originally the novel was titled Catch 14, and was changed a number of times for marketing reasons, until the “22” was decided upon.
There are lots and lots of examples if you dig around on the Net.
My car had been broken into and in the attempt to steal it the steering column was seriously damaged. Could not drive it. Insurance stated a Case Number must be obtained from the Police within 12 hours for insurance purposes. Police refuse to come to the vehicle, as they are too busy for mundane stuff. I cannot drive the damaged vehicle and I lived on a farm, alone, 25 miles from the nearest Police Station. What now….?
Enough stuff here to get one on the road for greater insight; best place to start for detailed stuff is at Wikipedia

1 comment:

Evangeline Brabant said...

Implying that a "Catch-22" relates to something like "Caught between a rock and a hard place," or "dammed if yo do, and dammed if you don't," tells me one has not red the book.

It is much more complex than that.