Some of you -- admit it -- lost patience and began to doubt it would ever happen. Others of you accused me of terminal tardiness. Most of you, I presume, quickly forgot that I had ever made the pledge. But in truth, I have been waiting for this season of celebration of the nation's birthday to deliver the first annual report of the acting president of the nonprofit group called Safeguard America's Vital Euphemisms (SAVE).
SAVE was launched in this column last January, when the House of Representatives, on the opening day of the 100th Congress, had the audacity to amend its rules and permit its members to call the Senate the Senate.
For 190 years, since Thomas Jefferson set down his manual of House procedures, the Senate had been ''the other body.'' And suddenly, the whippersnappers in the House had to abandon that nice phrase and start employing a six-letter word.
Worried that this would set a precedent for the willful destruction of such other treasured Washington euphemisms as ''the Defense Department'' and its ''Peacekeeper'' missiles, the ''entitlements'' and ''honorariums'' which are the staple of conversation on Capitol Hill, and even -- frightening thought -- the ''reliable sources'' on which journalism depends, I invited readers to submit their own entries for the endangered-species list of vital euphemisms. The best would be published in a future column, I promised.
The future is now, so let us, as Jim and Tammy say, go forth to SAVE.
My favorite among a large number of directional euphemisms was submitted by Hal Bopp of Bakersfield, Calif. He noted that when the director of a nuclear power plant in neutralist Sweden needed to refer to the source of the radiation released by the Chernobyl accident, he said, ''East of here, and east of Finland, if you know what I mean.''
Speaking of a nuclear accident, Nancy Mathews of the House Commerce Committee staff wrote that the industry euphemism for such a meltdown is an ''unscheduled event.'' And, she says, when nuclear plants lose plutonium, as sometimes happens, they just note it in the ''MUF file -- Material Unaccounted For.'' I have a similar file, but spell it with two ''Fs.''
Many, many of you reminded me that since Watergate days, time has been broken down, not in hours or minutes but in points. Well, at this point in time, it's clear that euphemisms are most vital -- and misleading -- in the budget debate.
Jack Pope of San Francisco threw a beanball back at Congress, calling '' 'deficit ceiling' an egregious euphemism. . . . What we see on Capitol Hill is actually a precarious red-ink dome. . . . It swells upward with regularity thanks to those budget-busters in the House and Senate.'' And then, in splendid overkill, he added, ''It's time to blow the lid off a Congress that still pretends there is such a thing as a ceiling on the federal deficit.''
On the other side of the budget debate, a Montclair, N.J., reader named Delaney warned that when politicians say ''we must exercise fiscal responsibility,'' they really mean ''those who have little are going to lose some of it.''
And Richard Norrish of Edwardsville, Ill., pointed to the weasel word ''adjust.'' ''When faculty and staff at the local university get a pay raise,'' he wrote, ''the administration tells the public about 'salary adjustments.' I'm sure they tell the employees they're getting a raise. . . . On the other hand, my bank tells me that 'because interest rates have declined substantially,' savings account rates 'will be adjusted to 5 percent. . . . I doubt if they would say 'adjusted' if they were about to pay me more interest.''
Donald P. McEwan of Annandale wrote a scholarly letter on the Victorian euphemisms intended to shield delicate sensibilities. These he linked to ''the Greek etymology of the word -- of good sound, voice or omen.'' Erwin Aymer of McLean submitted an example: ''Rest room, for a room in which nobody rests.'' Sydney H. Kasper of Silver Spring offered ''long-time companion'' for ''mistress.'' Ralph Hamil of New York said, ''Nothing can beat 'termination of life functions,' for death.''
Ruth McLeod of Rockville came across some ''variety dancers'' who were indistinguishable from strippers, except that they were performing on government property at a Navy club. And many, many of you suggested that ''misstatements'' and ''disinformation,'' even by the highest authority, might more accurately be called lies.
There are some issues that pit euphemism against euphemism. Several correspondents cited ''right to life;'' several others, ''freedom of choice and termination of pregnancy.''
But there are other euphemisms that cry out for nonexistent antonyms. Marshall Fritz of Fresno, Calif., after citing ''heavy profit-taking'' as the euphemism for a drop in the stock market, wondered why, when the market goes up, it's not called ''heavy loss-taking.''
Finally, Steve Collins of Alexandria said, ''America's ultimate euphemism must be our very name -- the United States.'' No, Steve, that's simply descriptive -- especially on the Fourth of July.