a dilemma with no good solution


Catch-22 = ist ein geflügeltes Wort im englischen Sprachraum. Es beschreibt ein Dilemma, aus der ein Individuum aufgrund widersprüchlicher Regeln nicht entkommen kann. Ähnliche Begriffe im Deutschen sind (logischer) Zirkelschluss, Teufelskreis oder auch Zwickmühle.



“War veterans such as Jason Kelley find themselves in a CATCH-22, not able to find a job because of the lack of an apartment, and not being able to get an apartment because of not having a job…”


“Russia’s crumbling infrastructure has the government stuck in a CATCH-22: it must either spend its oil reserves and drive inflation even higher, or it can continue doing nothing and watch its economy stall.”


Did you

noun phrase

- a situation presenting two equally undesirable alternatives

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary

- an impossible situation where you are prevented from doing one thing until you have done another thing, but you cannot do the other thing until you have done the first thing

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary


This interesting phrase is the title of Joseph Heller’s 1961 best-selling novel. Catch-22 is the paradox that trapped members of the US military:

Anyone who applied to get out of military service on the grounds of insanity was behaving rationally and thus couldn’t be insane.

The noun “catch”, among other things, is a “tricky or previously unsuspected condition or drawback” (“That sounds like a good offer, but there may be a catch"). Heller added the number 22 as a random choice after his publishers rejected several other numbers because they had some other significance.

Catch-22 is now an established phrase in the English language - describing a circumstance in which the solution to a problem is defeated by something that is part of the problem in the first place. For instance, in show business: you can’t get an acting job with first hiring an agent, but you can’t hire an agent until you first have an acting job.


Shortly before his death in 1999, Heller met an old friend in London. His friend remarked “You know Joe, after ‘Catch-22’ you tried, but you never did write a better novel, did you?” To which Heller thoughtfully replied, “You know, that’s right. But then again,… neither did anyone else!”

Heller’s book is an intellectual tour de force, a classic anti-war book full of ironic humour and highly recommendable, in English or in German.    


between a rock and a hard place, between the devil and the deep blue sea, bind, blockade, CATCH-22, damned if you do and damned if you don’t, dilemma, double-bind, fix, Hobson’s choice, jam, knot, impasse, no-win situation, paradox, pickle, predicament, quagmire, quandary, strait, whammy

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“I’m in a CATCH-22. I have lost my spectacles, but to look for them I need my spectacles.”

THANKS to Stephen for suggesting today’s OWAD

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

Paul Smith

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