Out-of-Date and Obsolete? That Trend May be “老掉牙 (Lǎodiàoyá)”!

Chinese General Out-of-Date

I have only lived in China as a Mandarin Chinese student for a little over a year now, but I have learned that things in China move and change fast. The trains zip by fast, the buildings are constructed almost overnight, Internet slang comes and goes, and the fashion changes each season. Just as I get used to something here, everything suddenly changes. Eventually, trends will become obsolete and out-of-date, or as I’ve learned to say in Mandarin Chinese, “老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá)”.
Today I will teach you about this popular Chinese word to express that something has been replaced by the latest style, trend, or construction. Perhaps the old airport has been replaced by a shiny, modern bigger airport. Maybe last year’s winter coat isn’t on the cover of fashion magazines. It’s unfortunate when something loses its cool, but “老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá)” is good to know when discussing the differences between old and new.
老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá) = old; corny; out of date; obsolete.

老 = (an adjective) for “old”, often used to describe people.

掉 = (a verb) meaning to drop; to fall.

牙 = (a noun) a tooth.

“老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá)” literally describes the image of someone that is very old and whose teeth have fallen out. Yuck. Therefore, we use this phrase to describe something that is out-of-date and no longer fresh and “cool”. It has a negative feeling, unlike “classic” which also describes something old, yet still popular and in demand.
One circumstance that we often use this word among friends is when we describe our smart-phones. In China, people like to have the latest and greatest smart-phone models. When the iPhone 8 was released this year, the iPhone 5 and even the iPhone 6 suddenly seemed so “老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá)” for many of us here. So, we self-deprecatingly referred to our phones as “老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá)”. We’re Mandarin Chinese students after all, not executives! We can only afford ”老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá)” phones after all!
Wǒ bù xiǎng yòng zhè tái lǎodiàoyá de diànnǎo.
我   不  想     用     这  台   老掉牙    的   电脑。
I don’t want to use this obsolete computer.

Zhè gè xīnwén yǐjīng lǎodiàoyá le.
这   个  新闻    已经     老掉牙 了。
The news is very old.

As you know, everything must pass. And, when it does, you may describe it as “老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá)”!

HSK 3 quiz

Which situation could you use “老掉牙 (lǎodiàoyá)” to describe something?
A. The cast of your favorite movie reunites for one more film.
B. A classic book that never gets old and is always popular in stores.
C. The old train that is still running even after the new High-Speed train opens between Beijing and Shanghai.
D. Your favorite food since you were a child.

―Elena Trevino―

Elena Trevino is a Mandarin Chinese student in Beijing studying the language to get a head start in international trade. She is most interested in seeing how Mandarin is affecting the fashion industry throughout the world as Chinese shoppers are now such a large factor. She is frequently attending fashion industry events in Beijing and throughout China.

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