Catch-22

Summary

Feifei wants a new job but without experience she can’t get it. It’s an impossible situation but Rob has the perfect phrase to describe her position – unfortunately it won’t get her a new job! Learn about this phrase in the latest episode of The English We Speak.

Transcript

Feifei
Hello and welcome to The English We Speak. It’s Feifei here…

Rob
…and hello, it’s Rob here too. Oh Feifei, why the glum face?

Feifei
I didn’t get it.

Rob
Get it?

Feifei
I didn’t get the job.

Rob
Oh yes yes, the job – you went for a new job – one you really really wanted. One that you said would be perfect for.

Feifei
Clearly I am not. Look at this rejection letter – it says I did not have enough experience – how dare they! But if I don’t do the job, how do I get the experience?

Rob
Oh dear, it sounds like catch-22.

Feifei
Catch-22? Is that some kind of qualification I need?

Rob
Nope, it just describes a situation where you can’t win. Basically, you can’t do one thing until you have done another thing which you can’t do until you have done the first thing.

Feifei
So it’s an impossible situation.

Rob
It is. Let’s hear some examples of this phrase in action…

Examples
I need my parent’s car, but my mum says I need permission from my dad, then my dad says I need permission from my mum. I can’t get permission from either. So I’m in a catch-22 situation.

To apply for a short-term student visa to study English in the UK, you have to be able to speak some English but you want to come to England to learn English! It’s catch-22 for many potential students.

Feifei
You’re listening to The English We Speak and Rob has told me I’m in a catch-22 situation – that’s a situation I cannot win.

Rob
Yes Feifei, so you can’t get a new job without some experience of doing it but you can’t get the experience with doing the job. So it’s catch-22!

Feifei
It’s a strange phrase Rob.

Rob
Yes, it comes from the title of a book – Catch-22, written by Joseph Heller in 1961 which describes bureaucratic constraints on soldiers in World War II.
But look Feifei, don’t be too sad about the job, you’ve got plenty of experience for doing this job.

Feifei
That’s because I’ve been here for 40 years!

Rob
But we respect you for expertise, especially in one task.

Feifei
What’s that?

Rob
Making the tea. Now could you put the kettle on please?

Feifei
Oh, I really need a new job.

Rob
Bye.