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A no-win dilemma or paradox, similar to damned if I do, damned if I don't. For example, You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience unless you have a job-it's Catch-22 . The term gained currency as the title of a 1961 war novel by Joseph Heller, who referred to an Air Force rule whereby a pilot continuing to fly combat missions without asking for relief is regarded as insane, but is considered sane enough to continue flying if he does make such a request.

a Catch 22

A Catch 22 is an extremely frustrating situation in which one thing cannot happen until another thing has happened, but the other thing cannot happen until the first thing has happened. There's a Catch 22 in social work. You need experience to get work and you need work to get experience. Note: You can also talk about a Catch 22 situation. It's a Catch 22 situation here. Nobody wants to support you until you're successful but without the support, how can you ever be successful? Note: This expression comes from the novel `Catch 22' (1961), by the American author Joseph Heller, which is about bomber pilots in the Second World War. Their `Catch 22' situation was that any sane person would ask if they could stop flying. However, the authorities would only allow people to stop flying if they were insane.
See also: 22, catch


n. a directive that is impossible to obey without violating some other, equally important, directive. There was nothing I could do. It was a classic catch-22.