I will not back down. I will not surrender. I will stand at the barricades against Feb-yoo-ary for as long as I can type.

I declared in print the other day that, throughout this month, I would publish the names of all radio announcers (and other offenders) who pronounce it Feb-yoo-ary. It was time to embarrass those assassins of correct speech, I asserted. The only proper way to say it, I contended, is Feb-roo-ary.

A lot of you have written to suggest that I do a number of potentially harmful things -- like jump in the lake. Among the kinder proposals is that I open my eyes and train them on a reputable dictionary.

Dummy columnist. Went off half-cocked. All he had to do was look in Webster --or American Heritage, or Random House -- and he'd discover that Feb-yoo-ary is listed as a pronunciation for the second month.

Indeed it is, you sharp-eyed eagles. And Feb-yoo-ary is right there in black and white in Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, too. That's the volume we use here at The Post to settle all arguments. In my experience, it's the best dictionary in the world short of those unabridged jobs you can't get off the shelf without a forklift.

But:

Feb-yoo-ary is listed after Feb-roo-ary in Webster's New World and in every other big-league dictionary I've checked, with the exception of the 1971 New Merriam--Webster Pocket Dictionary.

What does it mean for one pronunciation to be ranked ahead of or behind another? Here's what the Webster's New World "Guide to the Dictionary" says:

"Where two or more pronunciations for a single word are given, the order in which they are entered does not necessarily mean that the first is preferred to or more correct than the one or ones that follow...."

It looks good for your side, Feb-yoo-ary Folks. But there's more:

"In most cases, the order indicates that on the basis of available information, the form given first is the one most frequent in general cultivated use...."

Okay. So the Webster editors have decided that Feb-roo-ary is more frequent than Feb-yoo-ary. Does that make Feb-roo-ary more correct?

I say it does. The reason is the word "cultivated," which the Webster editors carefully included in their explanation.

Unquestionably, language belongs to all the people, cultivated or not. And properly, language is forever changing to reflect new thoughts or new shadings of meaning.

But February isn't a new thought, or a new word, or a new month. It has never changed. It has followed January and preceded March for hundreds of years. We have never needed two ways to pronounce it, and as far as I can tell, we never will.

The only reason Feb-yoo-ary crept into popular usage is laziness. It's a whole lot easier to say than Feb-roo-ary.

There's no doubt that millions of people refuse to take the trouble to add that extra "R." Does that make their pronunciation "correct?" It merely makes it frequent, which isn't the same at all.

Would you argue that "liberry" is the "correct" way to describe the place where they keep the books? Would you say that a doctor who delivers babies is "correctly" called an "obsetrician?"

Then don't come claiming Feb-yoo-ary has legitimate stature among "cultivated" people. It doesn't.