Word for Catch-22 in Japanese

January 5th, 2007

Looking through my referral logs, it would appear that someone came here searching for “japanese word for catch-22”. Just so you aren’t left hanging, there really isn’t one. Which isn’t so surprising — after all, until 1961, there was no word in English that encapsulated that particular type of dilemma either, hence the popularity of the phrase. So, really, you just have to evaluate how explicitly you want to translate it. If you just mean “a dilemma”, then “ジレンマ” (jiremma) or “板ばさみ” (itabasami) would work. If you mean “an unwinnable dilemma”, then perhaps “どうしようもないジレンマ” (do shiyo mo nai jiremma) would work. If you mean “a dilemma, in that satisfying a particular condition automatically disqualifies one from satisfying that condition”, which is the real meaning of catch-22, then you’re either going to need a huge long sentence explaining it, or, more practically, you might just want to re-evaluate how important the absolute accuracy of your translation needs to be.

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