America used muskets in WWI
Where does the expression 08/15 come from?
The expression comes from the legendary machine gun 08/15. This got its name in a similar way to how the various software versions are today. Just as Word got version “5.1” at some point, iTunes version “9.2” and so on, so there was MG 08/15 at that time. “08” because the basic model was introduced in 1908.
During the First World War, the gunmakers constantly worked on improvements, which is why a new model was released every year during the war. In 1914 came the 08/14, in 1915 the 08/15 and so it went on until 08/18.
Why did 08/15 become the epitome of “boring”, “nothing special”, “mass-produced goods”?
At that point the explanations diverge. Explanation
- The rifle just wasn't anything special. The German army quickly needed many machine guns in World War I, and mass production was at the expense of quality. The result was “run-of-the-mill” weapons.
- When the same weapon was used again later in World War II, it was of course hopelessly out of date and really nothing special. Accordingly, the derogatory expression 08/15 would not have come about until World War II.
- Personally, I like the third theory best: MG 08/15 in a certain way marks the beginning of a great wave of standardization. It was the first nationwide standardized machine gun that was used throughout the German Reich. And so it is also at the beginning of the German industrial norms. The lock of the MG 08/15 is said to have consisted of a conical pin, the dimensions of which were declared the first state industrial standard in 1918. That was DIN 1.
Thousands of DIN standards - for paper, for screws, for roof tiles
This very first standard, DIN 1, describes the tapered pin that was used in MG 08/15. Thus, the expression 08/15 could have stood at the beginning for “norm”, for “standard” and thus for “nothing extraordinary”. I actually think that's the nicest explanation, because it refers to this connection at the beginning of our DIN standards.
But just because this explanation is so interesting doesn't mean it's true. The association DIN e.V., which is responsible for industrial standards, considers them unlikely. I also suspect that the former explanations are true, that is, that the soldiers simply regarded the machine gun as inferior, mass-produced goods. That would be the run-of-the-mill explanation, so to speak.
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