What a wonderful summer it has been, for fans of the dragged-out meltdowns of prominent Republican politicians! We should perhaps pause to recognize the contributions John Ensign, Mark Sanford, and Sarah Palin have made to our American language.

Hiking the Appalachian Trial This evocative phrase can mean anything done instead one's official duties. It also implies that you are skipping work to cry for days with your soul mate, in Argentina.

That Whole Sparking Thing What a wonderful euphemism for sleeping with that special someone who is, as far as your romantic partner knows, "just a friend"! That moment when you give up all pretense of innocent platonic friendship and just go for it is indeed a special time in the dissolution of every man's marriage.

Crossed Lines This is a splendid example of the art of digging yourself a deeper hole. Feel free to use it if you are trying to make your background sound sexy and exciting without having to admit to anything specific, or if you just want to be vague, once again, to your partner about your romantic history!

Only Dead Fish Go With the Flow This, apparently, is Christian dogwhistling, yes, but it is also a really great way to paint your complete abdication of your responsibilities as the proactive decision of a maverick. Only a dead fish would keep governing Alaska after two years on the job! A vibrant leader of tomorrow would buck the system and randomly quit for no good reason in the middle of her term! (Also: live fish swim both up and downstream, all the time, we are pretty sure.)

A Pattern of Generosity The John Ensign sex scandal has, thus far, not presented as many idiomatic gifts as the scandals of Palin and Sanford. But there are nuggets of gold. This phrase, our humble suggestion for a new euphemism, comes from Ensign's lawyer's statement on the payments made by Ensign to the husband of the woman he slept with for a year. In the letter, the lawyer claims the payments were made by Ensign's parents, out of the kindness of their own hearts, and not by Ensign himself, out of his campaign or Senate funds, acting on orders from Tom Coburn. So go ahead and say you bought those drugs or paid that woman to keep quiet as part of your long "pattern of generosity" next time you're caught possibly misusing funds!

Honorable mention: "The biggest self of self is self."
"I know that I know that I know"
"If I die, I die."