The word “optics” used to mean the science of light. It still does, of course, but it now also refers to “how things look,” in terms of public image and so on.
And from what I can tell it has only come into this use in the last year or so. I first heard it on tech podcasts, but it was recently in a front-page headline (though the second story) in The Guardian. And I heard it on the telly. I think it was in Agents of SHIELD, wherein they included an explanation of what it means.
I can see how it can be used in its new meaning, but how did it come to be used that way?
And it seems that I’m right that it’s relatively new: Wikipedia, googling: both only turn up definitions like “the branch of physics to do with light.”
Now Urban Dictionary’s top definition is exactly what I’m talking about:
What something will look like to the outside world; the perception a public relations person would have on something. First seen (at least by me) in article by Equity Private on finance blog dealbreaker
Economists repurposing words from real science to dismal? Sounds entirely plausible.