Last Wednesday morning Hong Kong time, as Americans were still voting in some states, and other states had started counting votes, I checked the latest results every hour. The results showed a very close race between President Donald Trump and his Democratic Party challenger Joe Biden. I looked at the headlines in several major US newspapers and television networks. They all used different expressions to say the race was so close it was hard to predict who would win. One of the most popular headlines was “on a knife edge”. If something is “on a knife edge” it means it is very exciting, worrying, or difficult because the result is uncertain.
Another popular headline was “cliffhanger”. This has a similar meaning to “on a knife edge”. The word “cliffhanger” is often used to describe the ending of an episode of a TV drama. But it can also be used to describe a situation, such as an election, or the final moments of a very close sports contest. When used to describe the ending of an episode of a TV drama, it means a very exciting ending that keeps viewers guessing what will happen in the next episode. When used to describe an election or sports contest, the word “cliffhanger” means very suspenseful, exciting, or uncertain until the last moment when the outcome is known.
Many newspapers and TV stations used the expression “too close to call”. The word “call” when used for an election, particularly a US election, means to declare who has won. TV stations in the US use this word when they decide a presidential candidate has won a state or an election. For example, all the US media “called” New York for Biden and Florida for Trump. This means they decided, from their studies of voter preferences, that Biden won New York and Trump won Florida before all the votes were counted. If an election is “too close to call”, it means the race is too close and either side could win.
香港時間上周三的早上，當某些州份的美國人還在投票，而另一些州份已在點票時，我每隔一個小時便去查看一下最新的選舉結果。結果顯示，總統特朗普和他的民主黨挑戰者拜登的選情叮噹馬頭。我又看了幾間主要的美國報章與電視頻道的頭條，他們都用了不同的習語，去形容這場選舉鬥得有多難分難解，實在很難預測誰勝誰負。其中一個最熱門的標題是“on a knife edge”。若某事是“on a knife edge”，意即正在緊張關頭，令人非常焦急、坐立不安，因為結果難料。
另一個熱門的標題是“cliffhanger”，它跟“on a knife edge”的意思相近。Cliffhanger一字常被用來形容電視劇某集的結尾；但它也可用來形容一個情況，例如選舉，又或一場勢均力敵的體育賽事的最後階段。當用來形容電視劇某集的結尾時，它的意思就是留有一個懸念式的結局，吊吊觀眾的胃口，令他們猜測下一集會發生甚麼事；當用來形容一場選舉或體育賽事時，cliffhanger就解作非常懸疑、緊張、難以預料，不到最後一刻結局揭盅，也不會知道。
許多報章和電視台則用了另一個習語“too close to call”。在選舉尤其是美國選舉時用到call一字，意思就是去宣判誰獲勝。當美國的電視台判定了某位總統候選人贏得某個州又或選舉時，就會用到這個字。譬如，所有的美國媒體都“called” New York for Biden and Florida for Trump，意思即是說，根據他們研究過的選民取向，在所有點票完成之前就已判定了拜登贏取了紐約，特朗普贏取了佛羅里達。若某場選舉是“too close to call”，意即候選人鬥得難分難解、叮噹馬頭，都有可能勝出。中譯：七刻
Michael Chugani 褚簡寧