As prices rise, wage and price controls become more popular, although many economists say controls won't work.

I find myself wondering how a price freeze would actually be put into effect.

I think about household items that we buy frequently: mouthwash, facial tissues, instant coffee, paper towels, soap, detergents and other laundry products, breakfast foods, hot dogs, smoke alarms and ready-mix products.

Almost all these things fall into one of two categories. Either they're "on sale" every blessed week of the year, or rebates are offered that make the cost substantially less than the "regular price. The question therefore become: If the government is going to shout, "Whoa, stop right there," where will "right there" be? Will the price become frozen at the "regular" level, let's say 89 cents, which hasn't really been the regular selling price? Will it be frozen at 59 cents, which has been the regular "sale" price every week? Will it be frozen at 89 cents minus the value of a coupon? At 59 cents minus the value of a coupon? Would manufacturers be permitted to stop giving out coupons, and thereby turn an alleged price freeze into a sneaky increase? Precisely what would the ground rules be?

If the freeze takes place at a phony regular price that wasn't the true price in the marketplace, we'll be worse off than we are now. Wages would really be frozen, but prices wouldn't. WASHINGTON WONDERLAND

Speaking of freezes and government regulations: You don't have to be an energy expert to know that modern supermarkets use a lot of electricity to keep a vast array of foods frozen, or at least chilled.

If you own scores of stores, as Giant does, or thousands of stores, as Safeway does, you are painfully aware of how much energy costs. You make a concerted effort to avoid wasting energy.

So it was with some surprise that Giant Food recently received a letter from the Prince William (Va.) Electric Cooperative that said:

"We have been ordered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to notify you that in 1977, 1978 and 1979 your firm was one of the 20 largest purchasers of electric energy from the Prince William Electric Cooperative. We do not understand the reasons for this requirement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but we want to take this opportunity to thank you for being one of our top 20 purchasers, and for your interest and cooperation in these past years."

I'm afraid that one didn't exactly turn out the way they planned it. Well, back to the drawing board. NAMES IS NAMES

The Smithsonian Institution has announced that it is now the proud owner of a wasp collection that consists of 30,000 tiny parasitic wasps. The collection was donated by a man named Bugbee. GRRR RIGHT BAY AT YOU

A few days ago, I wrote, "A human being's ability to communicate intricate and detailed information from one mind to another is one of the things that set him apart from animals."

Quite a torrent of mail has come in to challenge the word "set." A few readers have politely inquired whether it should have been "sets," but at least 9 out of 10 have reproached me ferociously.

The "one of" construction causes much confusion. What the sentence actually says is, "Of the things that set him apart from animals, man's ability to communicate is one." If communication were the only difference, we would say "one thing sets." But we're not saying that. We're saying that of several things (plural) that set us apart, communication is one. The proximity of the word "one" to the verb "set" is what causes the subject to appear to be singular.

Roy Copperud reports that Fowler, Bernstein and Follett hold that the verb should be plural, and adds that the American Heritage panel agrees. Bryant, Evans, Flesch and Copperud says that although the plural is correct, the singular is "so often used" that they do not take exception to it. In short, no usage expert says the plural is wrong, but about half say the singular is wrong, albeit acceptable.

A writer who wants to be able to growl back at his critics occasionally will find it much easier to defend correct usage than usage that has gained acceptance because of widespread confusion. POLITICAL QUESTION

Weren't the real losers in Maine the pollsters who told us to expect a different result? VAGRANT THOUGHT

Does my calendar watch know that this is a Leap Year? Does yours?