This Chinese aphorism is used to indicate that what is being said is wasted on the people whom the saying is given to – they are oblivious to the meaning but instead are only aware of the sound. It is usually used in frustration, after the advices, the teachings, the coaching, the counseling or the warnings have been repeatedly given and have been overlooked, discounted, forgotten or ignored.
On the younger children, the interpretation is less harsh, the meaning is more gentle. This aphorism is also used when something more profound is expounded for the younger children and the meaning is missed or not grasped. On such occasions the usage is to indicate the younger children is too young to be able to take in the profundity – just like a duckling on hearing the thunder – it has no fear or anxiety but just lifts its head towards the sky and wonders what the noise is all about. Unaware what thunder can do to others and to itself.
Ever witness a duckling tilting its head skyward when it hears thunder as if trying to fathom where the loud sound is all about and where it comes from?
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