Idiom of the Day: Catch-22

A “Catch-22” situation occurs when when one thing must happen in order to cause another thing to happen, but because the first thing does not happen the second thing cannot happen.

Example: “If you don’t have a place to stay, you can’t get a job and with no job, you can’t get an apartment. It’s a Catch 22 situation.”

Origin: Joseph Heller coined the term in his 1961 novel Catch-22, which describes absurd bureaucratic constraints on soldiers in World War II. The term is introduced by the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes “Catch 22” to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity—hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions—demonstrates his own sanity in making the request and thus cannot be declared insane.