A coworker was telling me about a conversation she had with a friend. She had asked what her friend’s father did, and she answered, “He helps hurt people in Afghanistan.”
My friend was taken aback. “You shouldn’t tell people your father does that kind of thing,” she said, assuming he was a soldier in the war.
“No,” her friend replied. “He helps hurt people.”
My first thought was, “Oh, if this was a written sentence, there would be some punctuation to clarify her thought.” And then I scratched my head. No. Punctuation has nothing to offer this type of sentence.
Italicizing the word “helps” could work. But most people wouldn’t bother. So maybe we should invent a new punctuation mark. Maybe some little arrow that points to which of the two words you want to emphasize. Or a double-wide accent symbol that goes over the word. It would be nice to have. Then we’d know if the woman’s father was hellion or a hero.