So, optics. It's a fairly common scientific word, no? But, in one week, I must have heard it used in a different sense at least five times. I think it has become journalistic jargon, used in political or economic articles. Please let me know if I'm wrong and just hadn't been jarred by it earlier.
"Optics is again posing a problem for Sen. John McCain on lobbying. Though there's no evidence that McCain did anything improper in investigating Boeing (which did seem to have the more wanker of a tanker) or in celebrating the awarding of a multibillion dollar tanker contract to EADS (Airbus), the public data raises questions about who is minding McCain's public image and why he would subject himself to associations that undermine his reformer's crest."
From the NY Times:
"'Even if this was just an unvetted marketing blunder, The Post's reputation has taken a huge hit in terms of the optics. When you have Robert Gibbs joking about it, that's hugely embarrassing for the paper,' said Richard Leiby, acting arts editor of the newspaper."
"Bank executives said they knew they faced a difficult political fight, given the soaring number of homeowners facing foreclosure.
"'We know the optics are bad," said Scott Talbott, vice president for government affairs for the Financial Services Roundtable, a trade association in Washington. "If you are against a consumer regulatory agency, then everybody will say you're against consumer regulation.'"
When I went looking, I found a headline "EDITORIAL: Optics poor around raise" from the Mission City Record. (No longer available.)
And, finally, listening to a Fresh Air interview
with Wall Street Journal writer Kate Kelly, about her book, titled The Harder They Fall: The Last Days Of Bear Stearns
, I heard "Optically speaking" and at least two other similar phrases.
I think I've proved my case. I guess this is how language mutates.