I agree with Mark. Polyamory is literally "Many Loves". A lot depends on how you define love and what is involved in that love.
I don't feel that there has to be an "emotional distance" involved, but that also depends on the type of relationship you are looking for. Speaking for myself, I am currently only interested in an emotional and physical relationship. I would like to emphasize the emotional part most of all. It is that connection that I feel and that makes me happy, the physical is just a nice way to show that feeling in a tangible way.
As for you last question: What I think of them depends on the reason they are using the term. Is it out of ignorance, is it because that fits best how they feel, or are they using is as a ploy to get what they want without regard to the other people involved or the damage they can do by giving poly a bad name.
Life is about the journey and not the destination,
so what better way to know life
than to wander all the roads and paths set before you.