Look before you leap. The great leap forward. By leaps and bounds. Leaping to conclusions. Prices leap. Lovers' Leap. Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound.

Leap. Leapin' Lizards. Leap Year. February 29. The only day out of 1,430, tradition tells us, that a woman can propose marriage to a man.

That's baloney, sisters. Not nowadays, when a woman can call her favorite man and take a bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream over to his place. When Stanley and Helen Roper can argue about their sex life on prime-time TV. Or when Cosmopolitan tells women what to look for in a one-night stand.

Women, we now agree, have the right to take the initiative in matters of the heart. So we needn't celebrate this extra day of winter as Sadie Hawkins did, catching up for weeks and weeks of wallflowering.

In fact, we don't have to celebrate Leap Year at all. But, why not? A day that magically appears only once every four years, a day that doesn't usually exist at all, a regular Shangri-La of a day.

It's high time to spend a Liberated Leap Year. Here are some ways to get you started.

By now the alarm clock has gone off and you've groped the way into the shower. Consider what to wear today. A jumpsuit, maybe? Leaptick, the stuffing that clowns use to make themselves look fat? PF Flyers or running shoes. The key is to THINK BOUNCY.

And keep moving, too, because today's LEAPS AND BOUNDS will have to last for the next four years.

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, probably the greatest leaper of all time, SUPERMAN continues to leap his single bounds on Channel 5 at 5 p.m. But mere earthlings need a boost: A POGO STICK. They go for about $10 these days at Toys-R-Us stores. Use it for transportation and see if you can beat the bus. Or organize a pogo stick race. Boinnnnnng, boinnnnnnnnng. Plop.

Make a FLYING LEAP for the phone. Call four friends and have them each call a few and soon will grow a Leap Year bash. You'll need appropriate fare. Chez Froggy, a small restaurant on South 23rd Street in Arlington, is one of many in town that serve FROGS' LEGS.

Wash it down with a homonymic beverage: LIEBFRAUMILCH, or leapfrog-milk, as some call it.

For the party, rent a moonbounce (four hours at $185, two at $125) from Amusements Unlimited in Montgomery County. Two staff members come with it, to set it up and make sure nothing (and no one) goes amiss, in case you forget to

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP. LOVERS are encouraged to swing in the spirit of the day, but contemplating a mutual demise off a craggy cliff is taking romance too far. Instead, consider a trampoline for a leap ensemble . TRAMPOLINES are sold at the Sportsman in Bethesda and the Springriver Corporation in Rockville. Just think how much less grass you'll have to cut this spring if a trampoline covers part of the lawn. For those who prefer less lofty bounces, Springriver also sells small trampolines, about six inches off the floor, for indoor joggers who want to cushion their steps.

The award for the most unnatural leapers should have been handed out years ago: to a group of Johns Hopkins University students who, for some reason, in 1963 leapfrogged the 17 miles from Mount Vernon to the Mall to celebrate George Washington's Birthday.

The most natural leapers in town are the FROGS in Rock Creek Park, which are becoming a more common sight as spring approaches. Or the KANGAROOS at the National Zoo. A great gray was once observed traveling 42 feet before touching terra firma, according to the Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats . Those at the zoo might not put on such a show, but they're a lot closer to home than the Australian outback is. Check out the GAZELLES, too, and the COLOBUS MONKEYS. The zoo is open daily, 9 to 4:30.

If you think of the zoo as the only place in town to see jumpers in captivity, why, you're leaping to conclusions. At the INSECT ZOO, grasshoppers behave admirably. It's in the Museum of Natural History, on the third floor above the elephant. Who has never been observed leaping, even slightly. Hours: 10 to 5:30 daily. LEAPIN' LIZARDS! Annie's back in town! The musical is being performed at the Morris Mechanic Theater in Baltimore, through March 8. For ticket information, call 301/727-4102.

Moving right along -- it's a full day -- with a GREAT LEAP FORWARD. It might be to a Chinese checker board for a February 29th challenge. Or a lunch-time game of CHECKERS at Dupont Circle.

One small step for a man, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND. The Apollo 11 landed men on the moon a decade ago, and its command module is now in the National Air and Space Museum. A short film, which runs throughout the day, compresses the voyage into a mere 15 minutes, including news clips of take-off, traveling through space and that fateful step.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over a candlestick. real-life athletes prefer propelling themselves over HURDLES or POLE VAULTING.The best amateur springers in the country are competing in track and field events this Friday, from 11 to 10, at the National Athletics Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York (dare we say it -- a mere hop, skip and jump away from Penn Station).

If Manhattan is too big a step in a day, then let it come to you. The HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS are performing their basketball hijinks this Friday at 7:30, at the Capital Centre. Tickers range from $6 to $8, $2 less for kids.

If you'll prolong the celebration a bit, you can catch an exclusive look at five LORDS A. LEAPIN'. "The Philadelphia Story," playing at 6:30 Saturday and Sunday at AFI, is about the classy Lord family, especially Tracy (Katherine Hepburn), her ne'er-do-well father (John Halliday) and her Uncle Willie (Roland Young). Enter, too, her ex-husband (Cary Grant), potential husband (John Howard) and a magazine reporter (Jimmy Stewart).

Which brings us back to the relations between men and women and matters of marriage. According to one Irish custom, on February 29, a gentleman who refused was required to give the lady who asked a silk dress. The Scottish even enacted a law in the 13th century dictating that the man give the woman a sum of money (determined by his income) if he gave a Leap Year no-go.

Leap Year is no longer tied up in government regulation, as it was in Scotland. But we still have papal law on our side, thanks to Pope Gregory, the 16th century Vatican leader who devised Leap Year as we know it. If not for Gregory, Christmas would eventually be in the summer and there'd be snow on July 4th. Julius Caesar's Leap Year added an extra day every four years. But that's too much of a good thing, since a solar year is a tad less than 365 1/4 days. So the Pope decreed that every century year which is not divisible by 400 -- 1700, 1800, and so on -- should have just 365 days. According to Gart Westerhout, the scientific director of the Naval Observatory, this means we lose a day every 30,000 years. I do not plan to worry about it.