SOME personal news, as they say on Twitter: I’ll be attending a cèilidh soon. Actually, hold that thought: the invitation says it’s a ceilidh.

Did you spot the difference? Is it wrong to publish the word without the accent?

The topic arose on the Letters Pages this week. It started with Iain Macwhirter, who used the word “bourach”. This sparked a complaint from reader Dorothy Dennis, who wrote: “Gaelic was the language of both sides of my family until discouraged in my mother’s generation, but my father continued to use Gaelic all his days. It is interesting to see the word ‘bùrach’ turning up in The Herald from time to time – meaning a mess, or guddle. However, I would make a plea to non-Gaelic speakers who use this word to spell it properly. There is no ‘o’ in bùrach, and the ‘ ù’ makes a long ‘ooo’ sound.”

Derek Miller responded: “May I suggest to Dorothy Dennis that the use of ‘bourach’ in place of the Gaelic ‘bùrach’ is simply an example of linguistic anglicisation, the practice of modifying foreign words to make them easier to pronounce, spell or understand in English? I may be accused of a form of treason in describing the Gaelic as foreign.”

Leaving aside any question of treachery, Mr Miller raises an interesting point: how far should we go in anglicising our usage of Gaelic, especially at a time when the promotion of the language can sometimes be politicised, particularly with regards to the Scottish Government’s Gaelic Language Plan? Witness the controversy over the use of the word “Ambaileans” on our ambulances.

I can remember a time when quality Scottish broadsheets would use the word “pìobaireachd” in their coverage of Gaelic festivals, but nowadays it is always “pibroch” (strangely, I don’t recall seeing the spelling “mòd”; perhaps readers can correct me.)

But there’s the rub: most of us know what a pibroch is, but many more would stumble over pìobaireachd. The name of The Herald’s game is communication. We wish to give Gaelic the respect it is due – it is after all, recognised as an official language of Scotland – but not at the cost of the reader’s comprehension, as alluded to by Mr Miller.

Back to Ms Dennis. She responded to Mr Miller with: “I ask why spelling of a simple Gaelic word should be adapted for easy pronunciation in English. Following his reasoning I must order a merang in a cafay in order to help English understanding.”

That, I think, is a moot point. We are not propounding phonetic pronunciation: otherwise we would not be printing either cèilidh or ceilidh. I’d be practising some steps for the first kaylay I’ve been to in more years than I care to remember.