In e.g. "American History 101", what does the 101 mean, and what is the correct context to use it?
Does it always refer to a first, introductory course of a particular subject?
What comes after it "102" ?
I've also seen 411 pop up somewhere, is that related?

Is this a typical American phenomenon?
Regards
Lars
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(Email Removed) (Lars de Kock) wrote on 28 Dec 2003:
In e.g. "American History 101", what does the 101 mean, and what is the correct context to use it? Does it always refer to a first, introductory course of a particular subject?

You've answered your own question here. It's used in a couple of different contexts, but as a standard American idiom, it means "basic".
A typical context for use would be when someone demonstrates basic ignorance of a topic; then you can say something like "It looks as if you need to retake American History 101. George Washington, not Thomas Jefferson, was the first president of the US."
What comes after it "102" ?

You'd think so, and if you did, you'd be correct. But we don't talk about that one.
I've also seen 411 pop up somewhere, is that related?

I have no idea about 411.
Is this a typical American phenomenon?

"XYZ 101" is definitely American. It might also be idiomatic in other national dialects; I don't know.

Franke: EFL teacher & medical editor.
I've also seen 411 pop up somewhere, is that related?

I have no idea about 411.

It's the phone number for Directory Assistance (Enquiries)
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In e.g. "American History 101", what does the 101 mean, and what is the correct context to use it? Does it always refer to a first, introductory course of a particular subject? What comes after it "102" ?

History 101 is a phrase that means the basic course that is taught on the subject. The next level is not necessarily History 102. The use of "101" just means basic or first level. The actual course may be titled "Introduction to American History". The next levels may deal with specific periods of American history.
When I was in college, a course that was considered to be freshman level was always a 1xx course. A freshman took Composition 101 the first semester, and Composition 102 the second. A 2xx course was a sophomore level course and sometimes required a prerequisite basic course. A Journalism course might require a prerequisite course in composition.
I've also seen 411 pop up somewhere, is that related?

When you wanted Information (the telephone number of someone) you used to dial 411. It's become a term meaning information of any kind. "Give me the 411 on that course" means tell me how the teacher grades, if the course is interesting, etc.
Is this a typical American phenomenon?

Is what?
I've also seen 411 pop up somewhere, is that related?

I have no idea about 411.

It's unrelated. It's an HTTP error code, that's all. See:

http://www.checkupdown.com/status/E411.html

Christopher
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In e.g. "American History 101", what does the 101 mean, and what is the correct context to use it? Does ... it "102" ? I've also seen 411 pop up somewhere, is that related? Is this a typical American phenomenon?

Americans have given you the meanings. I can add that the use of 101 is not commonly known in the UK, and are almost never used except when addressing our colonial cousins. 411 is completely unknown and unused.

David
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I have no idea about 411.

It's unrelated. It's an HTTP error code, that's all. See: http://www.checkupdown.com/status/E411.html

The perspective of age. Christopher sees 411 as an http error code, and I see 411 as the number to dial for Information. Christopher probably thinks of (xxx) 555 1212 as the number for Information.

Yet, the "give me the 411.." phrase used by young people is the Information usage.
A Journalism course might require a prerequisite course in composition.

The course in composition might cover redundancies.
In e.g. "American History 101", what does the 101 mean, ... refer to a first, introductory course of a particular subject?

You've answered your own question here. It's used in a couple of different contexts, but as a standard American idiom, it means "basic".

Keep in mind that a 101 level course is the lowest level course that can be taken for college level credit. Real remedial courses would be like American History 99.
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