Returning from Berlin had a rare souvenir -- a...

A FRIEND

November 12, 1990

A FRIEND returning from Berlin had a rare souvenir -- a bottle of Gorbachev vodka.

Years ago, before the Soviet leader became such a hit in the West, we remember seeing advertisements touting that fire water on West Berlin buses. It was comforting to see that the old Gorby schnapps was still around.

The Kremlin apparently is not amused. Claiming the German vodka is earning its success illegally "inasmuch as the president of the U.S.S.R. involuntarily takes part in advertising the product," Soviet authorities are preparing a court case to wipe the Gorbachev brand "off the face of the earth."

According to the German distillery, the Gorbachev vodka has been around since 1880, when it was first made in St. Petersburg. A czarist general named L. Gorbachev started manufacturing it in Berlin in 1919 after having fled there from the Bolshevik revolution.

This seems like a credible explanation, somewhat like the Smirnoff vodka story. As for today's namesake, we think he should be grateful that people somewhere are still using Gorbachev for toasts. Back home they definitely are not.

* * *

WHEN GREAT matters oppress, happily there's diversion in the small ones.

For instance, the untidiness the other day that led this page to characterize Sen. Richard Lugar as an "Indian Republican."

Here's the missing a, and one to spare -- aapologies, Indianaa.

Misspelling marred the page opposite, too, in the mention of a proprietary brand of Scotland's national drink. "Johnny Walker," it said.

As should be evident from the works of Robbie Burns, the heights alongside Killiecrankie and the many display ads for Johnnie Walker, a Scot prefers -ie to -y.

Monie a bonnie lassie can only mourn, in Baltimore, to see Auchentoroly linger incorrectly on, a 12-letter name that should be a 13-.

And among those who drink neither Red Label nor Black but call natively for sour mash, many a quick buck can always be made by wagering with those who sip Tennessee's apostrophic alcohol.

They never learn that Jack's last name was Daniel.

* * *

RECENTLY, a South Dakota woman reluctantly let her 16-year-old son attend a young-leaders' conference in far-off D.C. -- his first trip to a big city.

Since the young man did not call home when he arrived, his mother phoned his hotel and was put on hold while the attendant checked on the group's whereabouts. The radio station used to soothe waiting callers was in the middle of a news broadcast: ". . . and Washington, D.C., the Murder Capital of the world, tonight claims two more victims."

Her son was just fine, thank you, but mom was a bit shaken.

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