NOW THAT Congress is gone for a while, it's time to give the American people a rest. Actually, we suppose we should make that "the American people," since it's not the people themselves we're talking about but the phrase invoking them, which got quite a workout in the closing days of the congressional session.

It might just have been that the relatively new element of televised congressional debate made one acutely conscious of it, but it seemed as if the frequently overused words "the American people" were intoned a record number of times this October -- as well as the adjective "American," which in current political usage is attached to just about everything of any conceivable merit.

A look through some of the Congressional Records covering activities at the height of the budget battle did nothing to dispel this feeling. In just one day's Senate proceedings there were references to (and this is only a partial listing) "the lawyers of America," "the unfinished business of America," "all Americans," "the vast majority of Americans," "America's conscience," "American spirits and hopes," "fellow Americans," "all Americans, black and white together," "rural America," "an American model of voluntary service," "the American dream," "the American goal," "the American hardwood industry," "American working families" and, of course, "the American people," who made a dozen appearances by our bleary-eyed accounting.

To be fair, this rhetorical Americanism isn't confined to Congress; it issues forth regularly from the executive, the press and most of the people (American people) running for office at any given time. And it does, to be sure, have a way of elevating one's appeal to a higher level than the merely parochial, especially in times of storm and stress such as the congressional session just ended.

That doesn't make us long any less, however, for the appearance of an orator who would limit himself to such straightforward expressions as "the people" (which was good enough for the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights), "my constituents" or even -- in moments of extreme candor -- "certain campaign contributors of mine who will profit greatly from this bill."

Such directness and simplicity would, we think, be welcomed as a refreshing change by the -- well, by just about everybody in the country.