In my mind, ‘helm‘ is a noun: most basically, the steering wheel of a ship. Hence, to take the helm. The person who does so is “at the helm”, and is called a helmsman (or helmsperson, blah blah blah). This applies literally, when talking about ships (avast!), and also idiomatically, with regard to controlling the direction of something tangible (like a car) or abstract (like a strategy).
But then I saw this:
Apparently the person at the helm is not a helmsman/person, but a helmer. A HELMER? Helmer: Noun. No, really? Considering that this was the Greater Union cinema timetable, I was willing to accept it as a grammatical anomaly unless a reliable second opinion could prove otherwise, so I turned to the most reliable second opinion in existence: the OED. And I was shocked:
Apparently, helmer IS a noun, and a specific one at that: a person who directs a film (etc). But note also, that it is only colloquial, andonly in the United States, and the first recorded appearance was only 1974 (to me, half a century at the very least is a good indicator of a well-entrenched word) AND it’s still only a draft entry.
So I say ‘helmer’ is a dumb, made-up, superfluous word. Who says ‘helmer’ anyway? No-one. Because there is no need to.
NB. No honestly, I was inspired by the terribly worded movie timetable. The Tim Burton/Johnny Depp joint appearance came later, and as a complete fluke, which I can attribute partly to coincidence, and partly to a penchant for my favourite director and his favourite leading man.
* Not surprisingly, the phrase ’nuff said’ originated not with Stan Lee, nor with Frank ‘Nuff Said’ Catton in Ocean’s Thirteen, but on the stage of a 19th-century theatre. See true/interesting etymology about halfway down this article.