Summary: Ever mistakenly misinterpret a word you read or heard in context? Here's one word that makes that an easy mistake: restive. Today's post will set you straight on its true meaning—plus link you to some older posts about other fun words, and even share a little tongue-in-cheek video humor!
Last week, I blogged about the pitfalls of teaching yourself new words by reading or hearing them used in context—without looking them up to go deeper. This week's WOW is a perfect example: It's a word that could make you a little confused, because it can sometimes seem to mean its own exact opposite.
Restive (RES - tihv) – (adj.) stubborn; resisting control; marked by impatience or uneasiness. It looks to be related to the word rest, and in fact, it is: Both come from the French rester, meaning to stop, resist or remain. But while rest implies patiently remaining at peace, restive (first brought to Middle English in the 1400s) is its antithesis.
At a glance, it can seem to mean restful—a conjugation of the word rest. The phrase "restive Chinese countryside" can begin to provoke images of simple folk abiding tradition until you register the preceding words, "bomb blast kills 300 in." Or, for example, when you hear the phrase "Restive Estates," you may think of a serene, peaceful, pastoral and elite neighborhood. But as you can see in this (somewhat off-color) video by Kevin Anderton, below, you would only be half-right! Anderton has keenly taken advantage of the frequent misuse and misconception of the word—and even more keenly, of the common root word for both restive and restful or even resting.
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