How do you sign… toss?

How do you sign… toss?

By Jillian Winn and Brenda Cartwright
Monday, January 6, 2020

This article is part of our "How do you sign…?" series. There isn’t always one answer to this question! This series will try to provide specific examples, which show why the context and meaning of words are so important in American Sign Language.

How do you sign ________?

We get this question all the time, "How do you sign _____?" It is easily the most common question anyone asks. However, it can be a tough question to answer because there isn’t a direct translation for every English word. Figuring out the meaning and context of what someone is trying to communicate is the key to picking the right sign (or signs) to use. So if you provide context when asking the question "How do you sign…" you are much more likely to get an accurate answer. Remember, when in doubt, you should fingerspell the word. 

The Signing Savvy dictionary provides an "as in" for each word to help you pick the correct meaning. We also provide written and signed example sentences to help you understand the context in which the sign is being used.

How do you sign toss?

When selecting signs for our Sign of the Days, we pick signs that align with a "recognized day." Sometimes these days are national holidays, other times they may be more obscure recognized days. For example, when doing our research of recognized days, we ran across, "National Fruitcake Toss Day." It may seem like a silly concept, but if you have the blues after the holidays, maybe tossing a fruitcake would help? But honestly, what does it even mean to toss a fruitcake? Does it mean to toss it out in the garbage? Or toss it across the room? Because the signs you would use would be different for these two examples. Further research pointed us to The Great Fruitcake Toss event, which has been happening in January in Manitou Springs, Colorado for over 20 years. So in this case, the meaning is to throw it as far as you can!

Let’s look at some other examples of how to sign toss.

1. TOSS (as in "throw something")

TOSS (as in "throw something") is the sign you would use to sign you are tossing a fruitcake in a competition.

Example of the sign used in a sentence:

English Example: My sister is really good at tossing balls.


2. TOSS (as in "throw away")

You could use the sign, TOSS (as in "throw away"), if you were trying to say your fruitcake had gotten old and you need to toss it in the garbage.

Example of the sign used in a sentence:

English Example: The milk was no good, so I tossed it.


3. TOSS OUT (as in "toss out or get rid of")

You probably wouldn't use TOSS OUT (as in "toss out or get rid of") for describing tossing fruitcake unless you literally were tossing it out of the house.

Example of the sign used in a sentence: 

English Example: Yesterday I tossed out my old clothes.


4. TOSS (as in "mix/toss the salad")

TOSS (as in "mix/toss the salad") is only used when tossing a salad and wouldn't make sense when talking about tossing a fruitcake.

Example of the sign used in a sentence: 

English Example: Would you please toss the salad?


Understand your context, so you can use the correct sign!

As you can see, understanding overall context and meaning is crucial to helping you determine what sign/signs to use. Look closely at our Signing Savvy "as in" and the example sentences to help you find the right sign for your intended meaning. Be prepared the next time you ask someone, "How do you sign ______?" and have an example sentence ready of how you want to use the term.

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