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The other day, I was reading an article about an individual who used to become pen pals with murderers in order to gain information about them. I believe this individual was a member of the CIA, hence why he was in contact with murderers.

At one point in the article, the following sentence is used:

"It struck me that while they were national spectacles - the graphic stories of the way they killed people splashed across the news - I didn't really know anything about them.

By the way, in this sentence, when the writer mentions "they" ("... while they were national spectacles..."), the writer is talking about the murderers.

In any case, here's my question:

The use of "splashed" is a particularly interesting and clever verb choice - it is so specifically chosen that I was wondering if there is a literary device name for this particular situation?

What I mean is, the writer could have chosen any verb to fit that sentence, but he used "splashed", and this links very well to the idea of how blood splashes everywhere (therefore linking to the subject matter) while also linking to the idea of killings making quickly way across news headlines.

  • I cannot think of one. In one sense, all literary devices involve the use of just the right word(s) for the thought/feeling/situation. I thought of ‘mot juste’, but that is more about choosing precisely the right word. In poetry, assonance is used for the right sound of words: “The barème black cliffs clashed round them, sharp smitten with the dint of arméd heel” gives the sounds of mortally wounded King Arthur and his men in Tennyson’s Morte d’Arthur. I hope someone better read than I am can help you. – Tuffy Dec 22 '17 at 23:15
  • You need the visual equivalent of assonant, then ... honestly though I'd probably just call it a pun, since it is basically a play on words. – Will Crawford Dec 23 '17 at 12:27
  • Having written and produced newspaper and magazines for the best part of 20 years, my experience is that there's no such term; not specifically nor similarly. – Robbie Goodwin Dec 23 '17 at 23:00
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I agree with @Rob_Star that the example quoted is not particularly original. But if it were, I would not regard it as a literary device — just good or original writing style. To describe it I would use the adjective apposite, e.g.

“The use of the word ‘splash’ was particularly apposite (because…)”

An Oxford Dictionary definition is

apposite

ADJECTIVE

Apt in the circumstances or in relation to something.

‘an apposite quotation’

The reason I suggest this adjective (rather than just ‘apt’) is that it embodies the idea of being appropriate to the circumstances.

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This may not be as complicated as it seems: when I run into something like this in my "day job" I usually call it an apt metaphor and keep going.

The cited example may be less inventive than suggested in the question. It seems like a good fit with a M-W definition for splash:

c : to display prominently a story splashed on the front page

Whether this metaphoric expression gets its aptness from the appearance of the headline type or the amount of printer's ink required remains a matter of conjecture.

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    I think OP’s point was that it can also conjure images of the victim’s blood being splashed around. – Jim Dec 22 '17 at 23:40

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