Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for August 13, 2020 is:
catch-22 KATCH-twen-tee-TOO noun
1 : a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule; also : the circumstance or rule that denies a solution
2 a : an illogical, unreasonable, or senseless situation
b : a measure or policy whose effect is the opposite of what was intended
c : a situation presenting two equally undesirable alternatives
3 : a hidden difficulty or means of entrapment : catch
Following her graduation from college, Kelsey struggled with the classic job-seeker’s catch-22: how to acquire work experience in her chosen field without already having a job in that field.
“Yet this week France stood firm on its ban, which prohibits the wearing of clothing intended to hide the face in public spaces, despite the fact that masks are now being required on public transportation and in high schools…. The result is a Catch-22. Those who do not wear a mask can be fined, as can those who violate the face-covering law.” — Lou Stoppard, The New York Times, 19 May 2020
Did you know?
Catch-22 originated as the title of a 1961 novel by Joseph Heller. (Heller had originally planned to title his novel Catch-18, but the publication of Leon Uris’s Mila 18 persuaded him to change the number.) The novel’s catch-22 was as follows: a combat pilot was crazy by definition (he would have to be crazy to fly combat missions) and since army regulations stipulated that insanity was justification for grounding, a pilot could avoid flight duty by simply asking, but if he asked, he was demonstrating his sanity (anyone who wanted to get out of combat must be sane) and had to keep flying. Catch-22 soon entered the language as the label for any irrational, circular, and impossible situation.