Add it to paradigm, organic, dynamic, metric, off-line, and all the other perfectly fine words that have been recycled in ways that their original definitions never intended. Now there's "optics," which was uttered by political consultant Steve Schmidt earlier in the week and has been slapped on most every conversation at the GOP convention. Here's an MSNBC anchor having at it. From Rob Walker:
Clearly this use of "optics" is distinct from the word's definition. So what does it (now) mean? David Gregory appears to have come closest to defining the term when he referred to "the optics of this, the politics, the perception." It seems clear that the notion of optics is tied to that of pseudo-events, the term introduced by Daniel Boorstin half a century ago to describe, well, things like today's political conventions: completely staged, meticulously crafted happenings, designed to attract media coverage. But considering the optics does not seem to entail digging behind the facade -- pointing out real facts and reference points obscured by surface aesthetics, as, for instance, Mark Lamster does in this recent Design Observer post on the convention's set.