What’s a punim?

Word count: 221 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

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: punim.

I hope to spare you the misery of watching the HBO special Behind the Candelabra — a cinebiography of entertainer Liberace (see photo above). I had high hopes for this movie, which was directed by Steven Soderbergh and starred Michael Douglas, Matt Damon and Rob Lowe.

Despite the many rave reviews the film has received (it even earned 93% on Rotten Tomatoes!), I found it a dog’s breakfast with wearisome writing and wretched, over-the-top “acting” by Michael Douglas. (Damon and Lowe were terrific, however.)

Even the normally reliable New Yorker, liked it. But while I disagree with most of Emily Nussbuam’s review I’m grateful that she taught me a brand new noun: punim.

I have no idea what Rob Lowe did to his pretty punim to turn himself into the sick Dr. Startz, an insidious plastic surgeon and pill-pusher, but he steals every scene he’s in. 

I’d never before heard the word punim but when I looked it up in my dictionary I discovered it was a Yiddish term meaning “face” — specifically, a cute face. That more or less describes Rob Lowe (sans makeup). And, if you look at a photo of Lowe from the movie, you can see why Nussbaum was concerned.

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