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Catch and Catch 22

[ 2010-10-15 13:03]     字号 [] [] []  
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Catch and Catch 22

Reader question:

“It sounds like a good offer, but there may be a catch”; “Money can buy happiness – with a catch”. Could you explain “with a catch”?

My comments:

If you catch something, you get hold of it. The police catch the criminal – he can’t escape.

The moth is fluttering through the bush and flowers care free. Then he bumps into a spider web and got caught. The invisible spider web is a catch.

Figuratively speaking, hence, a catch may refer to any hidden problem or unseen obstacle which may prevent you from getting what you want.

“It sounds like a good offer, but there may be a catch.” That means you should be careful with the good offer. It might be a trap. Don’t fall for it. The super market near you, for instance, is offering customers a draw of free coupons to celebrate the holidays, 100-yuan coupons. Very generous, you think. However, there is a catch – you have to purchase 1,000-yuan worth of goods or more to enter the draw.

In other words, the free coupons are not what they are purported to be. They are not free.

Now, “money can buy happiness – with a catch.” What do I say to that?

Well, I say money can buy happiness. All you need to do is to try.

“You mean there is a catch?” you ask.

“Sure there’s a catch,” as Doc Daneeka would tell Yossarian in Catch 22, every time Yossarian, the pilot, came to ask the doctor why he and Orr, another pilot, had to continue to fly bomb missions even if Orr had gone mad.

In fact, to understand what a catch is, both linguistically and otherwise, all you need to do is to read the great anti-war book by Joseph Heller, in which Catch 22 – the catch of all catches in modern life – is explained:

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. “Is Orr crazy?”

“He sure is,” Doc Daneeka said.

“Can you ground him?”

“I sure can but first he has to ask me to. That’s part of the rule.”

“Then why doesn’t he ask you to?”

“Because he’s crazy,” Doc Daneeka said. “He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he’s had. Sure I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to.”

“That’s all he has to do to be grounded?”

“That’s all. Let him ask me.”

“And then you can ground him?” Yossarian asked.

“No, then I can’t ground him.”

“You mean there’s a catch?”

“Sure there is a catch,” Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, that specified that a concern for one’s own 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 was sane, he had to fly them. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of the clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka replied.

As for the question of whether money can buy happiness, again I will only say this: Sure there is a catch, but it’s up to you to find out.

For me, it’s first things first.

First, I’ll make some money, before I even attempt to buy all the happiness there is out there that money can buy.

And why don’t you do likewise?



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


Half full or half empty?

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Under the radar?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)