Does 0815 simply mean something is very standard and common, or does it carry any connotations? Where can one use it, e.g. for description of processes, objects, persons? Can you give alternative slang words/idioms in German and especially English?
The expression "08/15" is used in colloquial German to express that procedures or objects are on average or mediocre.
"Dieses Verfahren ist 08/15" - This procedure is pretty standard
The use of "08/15" goes back to world war I when for the first time all German soldiers had a standard machine gun of the type MG 08/15. Not only was this gun on average technically but also the training on this gun was tedious.Source "Zwiebelfisch"
Even though possible I would not to recommend to use "08/15" on people as this may be considered to be an offense.
08/15 - "null-acht fünfzehn", sometimes sloppily pronounced "null-acht fuffzehn" - is a rather colloquial expression and means "nothing special, average, business as usual" like the English "run-of-the-mill."
You can use it with all kind of words, people, things, abstract concepts etc.
Other German words and expression meaning the same are
- Feld-Wald-und-Wiesen-... (coll.)
- Dutzend... (only with certain words e. g. "Dutzendmensch" and "Dutzendtag")
The idiom originates in the early 20th century's machine gun MG08 which most common version was the model 15.
There is a nice German Wikipedia article about the expression 08/15.
- a) Yes, it's a 08/15 expression
- b) No connotation, maybe a bit of 'bureaucracy'
- c) Usage: Yes, yes, and yes: Processes, objects and persons
- d) alternatives
- d1) German: [see: splattne], plus, from fauna: 'Gemeine [Haus~][ maus/katze/staubmilbe]. 'Gemein' is mostly used in the meaning of
fies, unfairand often irritating, if today used, to describe something without implying a value judgment. Similar to splattnes [Feld, ] Wald- und Wiesen~... (sometimes used without 'Feld').
- d2) English:
- run of the mill
- plain vanilla
- from the shelf
The expression 08/15 is well known and used in Germany but most people do not know its origin (which goes back to a machine gun in WWI in 1915 that did not live up to its promises). The expression is usually used to communicate that a process or a product is common, average or cheap. It is never used on people.
Aside from the meanings coined in the First World War, ‘regular’ and ‘standard’ as Takkat explained, a second meaning derived from the same gun still bein in use in the Second World War. By then, it was hopelessly dated leading to 08/15 also meaning dated in certain contexts.
To the best of my knowledge it refers to a version of German WW I rifle. Designed in 1908 and upgraded in 1915 during WW I. It worked. It’s standard, routine. There was a book of that title 08/15 with Schütze Arsch im dritten Glied. Private Arsch (yes, Ass) third row. Funny book. The book also inspired a movie of the same title. Both, the book and the film were popular in Germany in the late 50ies (before I emigrated).