I'm a native speaker. There is this sentence "an epiphany a long time in the making." Now it's technically an incorrect use of the word "epiphany," which is essentially something sudden. But what kind of mistake is it? What is the specific term for that kind of mistake? It's not a malapropism or a solecism. The closest thing is a "yogi berism" (No one goes there nowadays, it's too crowded). It's a phrase that's inherently contradictory. My question is, is there a name for this? I don't think it qualifies as an antithesis. Any linguists out there who could help?

  • 5
    Something that occurs suddenly can nevertheless be a long time in the making. The "making" refers to the cause. The epiphany is an event resulting from the cause. The inauguration of Donald Trump was quick, but it was a long time in the making. ;-)
    – Drew
    Jul 15, 2018 at 19:51
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    Why do you say it's a mistake??
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 15, 2018 at 20:11
  • 1
    It is like "an overnight success" that took 20 years in the making (as often happens in the music/movie business). Jul 15, 2018 at 20:31
  • 3
    When you light a long fuse leading to a stick of dynamite, the fuse might take 10 minutes to burn, but the bang will be very sudden, believe me. Jul 15, 2018 at 21:43
  • 1
    A dam can burst suddenly, even though the failure is due to a crack that was propagating through the concrete for decades.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 16, 2018 at 0:55

3 Answers 3


What you’re describing is an oxymoron.

oxymoron noun A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true). - ODO

As others have cited, there isn’t necessarily a contradiction between a sudden realisation and an extended prelude to that realisation.


Epiphany Literary Terms

Amy has been smoking for fifteen years. It isn’t until she gives birth to her daughter that she has a moment of revelation [epiphany]: she has to quit.

This is a more predictable epiphany, the moment of birth.

Your cited sentence containing "an epiphany a long time in the making" is grammatical and no mistake. Predictable in the reference implies events leading up the the 'aha' moment

  • Really? What makes you think “an epiphany a long time in the making” is a sentence, complete in or of Itself, please? When or even if “an epiphany is essentially something sudden”, could you explain what difference “sudden” makes, please? Jul 16, 2018 at 19:29

One way the phrase can be used is sarcasm, a tongue-in-cheek remark, a back-handed compliment, ….

"Your epiphany has been a long time in the making."

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