What does hermeneutical mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: hermeneutical.

I love few things more than reading about food, when two of my most intensely held pleasures combine into one glorious mouthful.

When I read the New Yorker article “Good Greens: Vegetarian Cookbooks for Carnivores” (in the Apr. 14/14 edition) I not only appropriated the names of several interesting cookbooks, I also had my first encounter with the writing of Jane Kramer, pictured above.

Surely, I’ve read her work before. After all, she’s the  European correspondent for the New Yorker and I’ve read the magazine weekly for more than a decade. But I’d never retained her byline. Odd, because she seems very interested in food. Here is a sentence that not only struck me favourably, but that also gave me my word of the week, hermeneutical:

I’ve learned that people have been arguing about eating animals since the day they began eating or, more to the point, not eating them, and, second, that the history of their arguments is a hermeneutical minefield.

As a noun, hermeneutic, means of or relating to interpretation of the Bible. The adjective, hermeneutical can be more broadly understood as something that’s “interpretative” although, of course, it still carries connotations of Scripture.

First known use of the word occurred in 1678. It’s Greek in origin, hermēneutikos, from hermēneuein to interpret, from hermēneus meaning, interpreter.