A Washington Post article reprinted in today’s Boston Globe refers to Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province as resistive. But the same article in the Post itself uses the more expected word restive. What’s up with that?
Restive is a tough word–it provides you with two different ways to get it wrong. Language mavens will tell us that it isn’t a synonym for restless–it means “difficult to control,” not “fidgety.” But I’ve also seen it used as a synonym for restful. Here, for example, we have an online thread about what to do when you’re able to get to sleep but your sleep isn’t “restive.”
The Globe seems to want to eliminate the confusion by changing the word to resistive, presumably meaning resistant, which I suppose also fits Baluchistan. The dictionary will give you that definition for resistive, but it seems to be used that way mostly in technical contexts. Of course maybe the Globe didn’t make the change. It’s also possible the writers themselves used resistive; the Post corrected it, but the Globe didn’t bother. Either way, this is probably one of those substitutions that show a word is on the way out. The Google Ngram Viewer tells us that restive peaked in popularity around 1930 and has been on a downward slide ever since. It’s a useful word, but it’s time may have passed.