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In an essay, the writer talks about a public relations team and writes, "they're the people who try to make sure everyone sees the corporation as the good guys. Even when they kill puppies. With oil."(see in this link https://www.clarkandmiller.com/relation-vs-relationship-difference/)

Does 'with oil' mean 'resorting to bribery' or 'spinning the story, that is, twisting the fact'? Why is it used as a sentence alone?

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    This needs more context. Who are the 'corporation'? What is the source? "With oil" doesn't have any obvious meaning here. As it stands, it seems more likely that they literally kill puppies with oil. For example, rancid oil which can be poisonous to dogs often washes up on beaches due to corporations not disposing of it properly. It could mean something like that, but without context, its just guesswork.
    – Astralbee
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 8:00
  • Perhaps it alludes to "pooring oil on troubled waters". The quoted text has "they're the people who try to make sure everyone sees the corporation as the good guys" suggesting the corporation may be less than ethical.
    – AdrianHHH
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 9:41
  • My impression is that it's not a well thought out sentence: written to say one thing and then incorrectly amended to say something different. Tobacco, Pharma and cosmetic companies do kill puppies. They make them smoke cigarettes, try out drugs on them, test for allergies by putting chemicals into their eyes, etc. Oil companies kill a wide range of (largely marine) animals by accidental oil spills or deliberate oil discharges. This could therefore be a reference to killing seal pups.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 10:41
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    It's probably supposed to be darkly humorous by combining the killing of puppies with something equally bad to create something of ludicrous horror. It might refer to oil spills or more generally to the evils of the oil industry which is going to kill us all via global warming, or how the US government kills people in the Middle East to get their oil. Whichever, it's bad.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 11, 2022 at 11:08
  • @StuartF I think your comment is the answer, especially concerning "oil spills or more generally to the evils of the oil industry". That seems to be the author's intended meaning. Commented May 11, 2022 at 14:22

2 Answers 2

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I believe that this is a mild attempt at a Paraprosdokian.

a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence, phrase, or larger discourse is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect

The point of these lines is talking about how it's PR's job to make a bad company seem good. If your corporation is killing puppies, that's something everyone will see as bad. If you're killing them with oil (or, more naturally, with fire), you're not just killing those puppies, you're doing it horribly. The second part is unexpected and meant to be a humorous exaggeration. You aren't meant to read this as them literally killing puppies, let alone killing puppies with oil. The writer is humorously stating that a company is bad, but then clarifies that it's really bad.

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It's literal: it means "using oil to kill puppies."

Imagine that you are the owner of a large company that makes oil. Your company kills puppies, because it makes the oil cheaper. Public Relations is the name of the part of your company which tries to make people forget that your company kills puppies.

For example, your company has a big tank of oil, and the tank breaks, and all the oil comes out, and some puppies drown because they can't swim in oil. Your public relations department will try to make sure that people do not get angry about that.

It is a humorous exaggeration of what large oil companies actually do.


"With oil" is not a complete sentence - it is the end of the sentence:

They’re the people who try to make sure everyone sees the corporation as the good guys. Even when they kill puppies. With oil.

which uses full stops like "big commas" for dramatic effect. When spoken, the pause makes the listener think the sentence has finished, but then you tell them more.

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