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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)


But why Helen? Why not Concordia, or Nancy, or something French? Does it matter? It does—to me.

When I first essayed the writing of Women's Notes for the “Railways Magazine,” I was exercised in my own mind as to the propriety, or not, of signing my own name. Advertisement or anonymity? Anonymity won, for reasons hereinafter given. Canvassing among friends for a suitable pen-name produced a great variety of nomenclature, from the erudite (classical Latin or fashion-note French) to the warmly related (Aunt Jenny or Cousin Sue). I dislike the pedantic and I have a positive hatred for fulsome friendliness.

The pen-name puzzle reached such a pitch that I could write nothing but lists of foolish nom-de-plumes wrung from my fevered brain. The date of publication was drawing near. The Editor was waiting. Like cool rain from a brazen sky came the suggestion “Helen.” The problem was solved and I gaily despatched my first assignment.

It was not until I saw the Women's Page in print that I recognized the affinity of Helen to a dream-name of my childhood. “Helena” it had been then, and to me it still is Helena, in sympathy with that child I once was. That child, like most young things, had a quaint habit of mispronouncing words, sometimes quite simple words. Such an one was “Helena.” The proud heroine of an early birthday gift book remained for years “Hel-een-a,” until an unthinking adult, until then rather admired, on being told some of the story, corrected the heroine's name to Hell'n'a. “Hell'n'a”; What a hideous name! Dear Hel-een-a! Must you suffer such an indignity? The book lost much of its magic, and was put away. The memory of a glorious name, dragged down to the commonplace remained.

So, in resentment, and in vindication of that child I was, I sign myself Helen—to me, “Hel-een-a.”