September is Serious Time -- back to school, back to work, bye to summer. And if you're like me, Serious Time means you trundle off to shop for Serious Clothes. In the case of the male of the species, that probably means a new suit, and maybe a couple.

However, suit shopping will take your breath away. A new men's suit can cost $1,000 or more these days. And if you spend less than $300 for a suit, you won't look like your glorious self. You will look like a bowl of lumpy mashed potatoes.

But some men don't blink at suit prices. One notorious nonblinker seems to have been Dennis Levine, a principal in last year's Wall Street insider trading scandal. He told a New York court that he routinely spends $20,000 a year on clothes.

Well, that astounded even the usually unastoundable me. Twenty grand on threads? Every year? Brother Levine would need a large closet, wouldn't he?

But then I got to wondering if clothing expenditures of that megatonnage are more common than I realized. And I wondered if men in Washington spend Levine-like sums on clothes.

The answer -- surprising to me, but routine to some of the guys in the business -- is that some Washington men do.

Ken Lowe, manager of the downtown Brooks Brothers, said he has several customers who spend 20 grand a year on clothes. "Most of them don't work," Ken said. "From the top of my head, one is in cattle, one in real estate."

Cesar Cuva is general manager of the Silhouette Boutique in Georgetown, which carries the trendy Hugo Boss line. Cesar said his customers include "movie stars and lawyers, professionals, diplomats" -- and they regularly spend $20,000 a year on clothes.

"I can't believe that $20,000 sounds like a lot of money," Cesar said. "That's peanuts."

Alexander Julian, another shop in Georgetown, sells the most expensive off-the-rack men's suits in Washington. They go for $1,200 a pop. Does Julian have $20,000-a-year customers? "Quite a few," said owner Lee Horner.

"Basically, they are owners of their own companies and medical people, professional people that need to look good," Lee said.

Does he ever get senators or congressmen?

"No," said Lee. "They're too cheap."

People may have said a lot of bad things about you, Dennis Levine. But they never said that.

September means something else to a lot of people -- time to set aside iced tea as the beverage of choice and to return to something more bracing, like cocoa or coffee.

But Diane S. Lilly of Potomac is a transplanted Texan, and one of the habits she transplanted with her is a love for iced tea, 12 months a year.

The trouble is that she and her beloved iced tea are the victims of discrimination.

"Iced tea costs upwards of 75 cents in restaurants, fast food 'mills' and drink stands," Diane writes. "While my husband drinks endless cups of free coffee refills, I usually sit and steam over the 'no free refill' policy on tea.

"It's disgraceful to charge 75 cents or more for {iced tea} . . . . in the first place. But to deny free refills of this cheapest of all beverages (except water) is just plain ridiculous."

This coffee addict has to agree. How about it, restaurants?

When Volkswagens were first introduced in the United States, dealers and advertising reps made a great effort to get Americans to pronounce the name of the car the way the Germans do.

It was FOLKS-voggin, please. Not VOLKS-vaggin. Not VOLK-swoggin. And certainly not VOLKS-waggin.

But VOLKS-waggin is what the name quickly became. Our countrymen somehow considered FOLKS-voggin too foreign, or too difficult, or both.

Maybe this shouldn't have been surprising. After all, how many times have you heard "pouilly fuisse" pronounced correctly lately? Or "guacamole"? Or "szechuan"?

Now comes a truly ominous development, however. The name of the German car is being misspelled so that it will agree with its Americanized mispronunciation.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you: Volkswagon!

I just noticed that formulation in a widely circulated newsletter. A few weeks earlier, I saw "Volkswagon" in a trade journal -- a trade journal that covers the auto industry.

Ford has nothing to worry about on this score. But are we so lazy that we will soon be writing about Shevrolays? And Byooiks? And Plimmiths?

Volkswagens may be small, but to accuse them of being wagons is to demean them. The correct pronunciation should never have left. Let's not allow the correct spelling to escape, too.