The closest thing I could guess is that you've read a lot of things where big and large are used in very different ways, and those differences have left an impression. However, I'll admit that I don't fully understand for the big and large stuff, other than the lightning and lightning bug quote.
As far as words like liberal, I think that connotations arise purely because so much of the nation has lost the ability for civil discourse. The two party system allows for pure demonization in order to feed more power to their respective sides. It's like, you know I'm not a Socialist, but I have respect for people who wear the label openly and stand by their beliefs.
About a month ago, I tried to tell someone that I'm closer to Libertarian than anything else, and he immediately assumed I was for all sorts of things like "going Galt" and all such. This is a big part of the issue: the inherent nature of a political party suggests that people are going to all agree with one side or the other, despite that this goes against human nature. Combined with the way parties have an easier time tearing the other down instead of building up, it's natural to immediately think of the worst part of a system.
The GBLTQA Community has an interesting way of handling this: they have a label they use and a support group. While this may be necessary in parts of society where people are openly hostile, I wouldn't want this method to become the norm for every sort of behavior which doesn't follow the cultural mandate. The hard part about pushing people into groups is that they don't always agree, as I think I already mentioned with political parties.
I think that's really the sad part about the federal government. We can't have federal laws without forcing both sides across the entire country to abide by them. But, that's a tangent.
This is why I'm not big on some of these cute names that are thrown around for bills and laws. I can disagree with the PATRIOT Act and still be a patriot. The whole argument with the Affordable Care Act is that Republicans claim that it isn't affordable care. Abraham Lincoln talked about how if you call a tail a leg, a dog has four legs, and calling a tail a leg doesn't make it so. Civility is long dead in politics, and I'd be against an attempt to force it to return, but I'd much rather see names where people can agree on what it's about rather than having to resort to coming up with their own little monikers.
May have run off the rails on this post...