Optics

Still, as Zimmer noted, “optics” could not have been an entirely Canadian invention, because it also cropped up occasionally, largely in business reporting, throughout the 1980s in the US. The appeal of the term is obvious. As Jan Freeman, language columnist for the Boston Globe, noted in 2008, “optics,” unlike fuzzy constructs such as “appearances,” has an aura of scientific precision that appeals to advisers and consultants striving to lend weight to their words. “It invokes a whole set of tech-and-science terms like physics, statistics, and tectonics,” Freeman said, “as well as Greek-derived high-concept nouns like hermeneutics, aesthetics, and pragmatics, all with an aura of brainy precision.” All I can say is that “optics” may invoke all those things, but that doesn’t mean just tweaking the spin will muddle the minds of regular people. A few years ago I adopted the acronym JWILL (pronounced “jay-will”) as my personal guide to understanding why public figures do what they do. It stands for “Just What It Looks Like,” and it hasn’t failed me yet.

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