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Catch-22
Has it become too wide a catch ?
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2014/04/30
12:28am
RobertB
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‘Catch-22′ was mentioned by the Arch Bishop of New York during his talk of how greater difficulties might come to Ukraine if Pope Francis might speak out too strongly in support for it. Apparently he meant the difficulty of a political balancing act on the part of the Pope. Or otherwise maybe something like a ‘dilemma.’

Usually I understand ‘catch-22′ as a predicament caused by a circular logic – one most commonly heard: ‘No jobs, no skills, no skills, no jobs.’

So, what would you accept as some proper uses of that term? Was the Bishop right to use it as characterized above? – presuming I did an accurate job describing it above .

2014/04/30
3:31am
Glenn
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Popular culture often takes nuanced concepts and, at best, simplifies them into something virtually unrecognizable, or applies them to downright unrelated ideas.

I’ve heard Einstein’s theory of relativity pressed into service on a warmish spring day when people eagerly emerged in shorts. They commented “Einstein’s theory proves it’s all relative.”

There are other examples.

In this case, I agree that the original Catch-22 was more subtle than a simple dilemma or even a simple self-contradiction (e.g. You need a credit history to be approved for your first credit card.) It refers to a more subtle way in which a system of rules forces you into one and only one course of action.

Still, in pop culture, the best you will likely see and hear is a reference to a simple dilemma, a self-contradiction, or a frustration.

[edit: added the following] Webster’s shows the most generic definition that fits the archbishop’s use. American Heritage provides the most nuance, along with (4) which is very broad.

Oxford Dictionary: catch-22
American Heritage: catch-22
Webster’s: catch-22

2014/05/01
2:12pm
deaconB
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A number of dictionaries note that the term “catch 22″ comes from Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, then report that the earliest known use was 1971.   I wonder why Heller’s usage didn’t count.

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 were 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.

I have to wonder whether Heller invented the term or if he was inspired by a joke circulating around in WWII bomber squadrons.   I think I heard a joke using the term from WWII vets during the Eisenhower administration.   That doesn’t mean Heller didn’t invent the term; he started writing the book in 1953, and it took 8 years to publish it.

 The joke was that Jesus asked out of his dangerous mission, invoking Catch 22.   Or as the Jews called it,   Psalms 22.    My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? …

I’m not sure even Heller knew for sure.   Our literary works develop a mind of their own.

A quarter century ago, I wrote a scheduling function that would pop the next scheduled activity off the stack and launch whatever function was appropriate.   “Next” is a reserved keyword in many languages, and there was talk of rewriting everything in another language, so instead of calling the function “doTheNextHoneydewTask()”, I called the function redhead().   Everybody seemed to understand it, and nobody ever asked me why I named it that.

However, there were a lot of “blonde” jokes going around at the time.   What is “the mating call” of a blonde?   “I am so drunk!” When asked what it is for a brunette, one carefully looks in all directions and asks in a whisper, “Are all the blondes gone?” And for a redhead, one lofts a bent index finger and boldly announces, “Next!”

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