I've been hearing and using all the these words my whole life. Most of them I've just jammed into my mental lexicon without stopping to think about them. Whole phrases have gone in one ear and stuck without asking my permission. Every so often a word or a phrase sits up straight, clears its throat, and tickles me in the back of the brain to get my attention. That's a word moment.
There's more than one kind of word moment.
Sometimes you find yourself articulating the sounds of a word you use all the time, and it just sounds wrong. That can't possibly be the word you use to express that meaning, can it? (Spoon. Spoon? Spooooon. Spoon! Huh. Spoon.)
That's a word moment of the first kind—reintroducing yourself to the sound of a word you've known all your life.
Sometimes you'll use a word, and realize you know exactly where it came from, even though you've never thought about it before. (I will do it. Will? It's my will that I'll do it. He's a lieutenant. Lieutenant? Lieu meaning place, tenant like teneo meaning hold? Placeholder.)
That's a word moment of the second kind—an etymological eureka.
Sometimes it's a whole phrase you acquired as a single compound word, maybe in childhood, without ever breaking it down into its component parts. Suddenly you realize the parts have meant something all along without you noticing. How did you ever miss it? (Froot Loops? Because they're loops flavored like fruit.)
That's a word moment of the third kind—recognizing that the whole is actually made up of parts.
Why do we have word moments, and why the different kinds? They seem to me like reanalysis, reorganization of the mental lexicon—phonological, morphological, and semantic. Are we exerting conscious control over the generalizations in our lexicons? Is it unconscious—garbage collection in our language modules—and we occasionally notice the man behind the curtain? Do children have word moments? Are children acquiring language (10 words per day!) living in one big word moment? Or is it precisely not noticing the words that allows children to acquire language so fast?
Hmm. Beats. Beeeats. Beatssss...