Just a (orig. AmE) quickie from my lunch break:
Yesterday, during another lunch break (maybe I have lunch too often), I met a student who's at Sussex for the annual International Summer School--which as far as I can tell has just American students, but I may be wrong about that. At any rate, there are a lot of Californian science students wandering around at the moment. She's working with my friend Maverick, who introduced me as "Lynne, whose blog I was telling you about". At the end of the conversation, the student--let's call her Santa Barbara, after her home university--told me she'd be (orig. AmE) checking out the blog soon. So in order to welcome her, I'm going to point out the little communication hiccup I observed in her interactions with BrE speakers yesterday. If you're reading, Santa Barbara, say 'hello'!
SB is doing a psychology study under Maverick's supervision, but she was having trouble recruiting other students from the summer school to take part. Looking for possible explanations, she said to Maverick--"Well, it's midterm." It looked to me like Maverick was not getting the relevance of this, but happily SB carried on to say "A lot of the students are Physics students, and they have a big exam today." I watched the same thing happen again when the Blinder joined our conversation and SB had to bring her (apparently orig. AmE) up-to-speed on what had been discussed so far. She may have said in at least one case "it's midterms". Again, I could see the Blinder not really getting it, until SB continued on about the physics exam.
When SB said midterm she meant an exam or examination period. The reason for this not transferring well to BrE is that midterm examinations are not very common in higher education in the UK. At our university, if we have tests during the term, they're called coursework tests (I'm not marking that as general BrE, since I can't speak for other universities). It's only very recent that students in UK higher education have testing during the academic term. When I started at Sussex nearly 10 years ago, students had their exams at the end of the academic year for all courses--even autumn term courses that had ended 5 or 6 months before. This was frequent examination as compared to the experience of my older UK-educated colleagues, who, 30 years ago or more, had to wait until the end of their three-year degree program(me) to be tested on everything they had been taught.
I expect that when the Blinder and Maverick heard midterm, they thought (BrE) half term--which is a holiday/vacation period in the middle of a term (though Maverick would know that these students didn't get a break--it's only a six-week program(me)). They can tell us in the comments if I'm wrong about that. I've discussed half term before, so please click on the link to see more discussion and discuss more.
Because US students have midterm exams to contrast them with, end-of-term exams tend to be referred to as final exams or finals, whereas UK students (at least at my [BrE informal] uni) tend just to talk about exams.
Here's another exam-related post, in case you're interested.
And so, to conclude my lunch hour: the fruit salad was rather disappointing. Back to the coalface--which is LynneguistE for 'library'.