I saw the following phrase while I was reading a book,

Finally, she gave up with a loud groan. She tossed her hair in the air with both hands. And turned to me with a growl.

The related usage of toss is defined in Longman dictionary as,

toss your head/hair written,

to move your head or hair back suddenly, often with a shaking movement showing anger. Example:

He tossed his head angrily and left the room.

To me the act of tossing head or moving head back suddenly make sense when someone is angry or frustrated. But it doesn't look normal to me that someone toss their hair when they are angry or frustrated. For example in that phrase of the book why would someone toss their hair with two hands to express those feelings?

  • 2
    It looks to me like a fairly poorly written book that is mixing "toss one's hair" (to indicate anger) and "with both hands" (to indicate strong intent) and ending up with nonsense. Who wrote the book? Is it a pulp fiction - these are often produced without much careful editing.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 25 at 7:36
  • @JamesK It is from 50th book of goosebumps series by R. L. Stine. It was published in December 1996 so maybe because it is relatively old it looks like a poorly written book.
    – Etemon
    Commented Feb 25 at 8:10
  • 1
    Is that Calling All Creeps! Goosebumps is a series of books for children, they were written very rapidly, and so are likely to contain phrasing that isn't wrong, might seem a little odd if you start to analyse it. This is because the author didn't have time to analyse their text. And most children don't care about such things - they just want to get on with the story.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 25 at 8:16
  • The English of 28 years ago is still very modern. Commented Feb 25 at 8:27
  • @JamesK Thanks for the insight! Yes exactly that's the book. Although it is written for children but the stories aren't very childish and some adults might enjoy reading it. Although I'm relatively good with vocabularies I find some new words and expressions in the book! And yes it looks the writer didn't pay much attention to details.
    – Etemon
    Commented Feb 25 at 8:35

2 Answers 2


Don't bother about trying to analyse the text too much. This is a story for children, and so you should read it like a child and enjoy the story.

If you analyse that particular line, it might not make much sense. But we get that she is angry, or frustrated, and she is getting ready for action. The child reader now just wants to move on and get to the action.


Taking both hands and pushing long hair up abruply has long been part of the traditional iconography of feminine anger, frustration, or exasperation in western culture. You could probably find dozens and dozens of examples of it in American TV sitcoms from the 1960s onward.

  • 1
    I'm having trouble finding any...
    – James K
    Commented Feb 25 at 16:18
  • Here's a miscellany but many of the photos are directly relevant: istockphoto.com/photos/pulling-his-hair-out-in-frustration (ignore the caption -- not everyone is "pulling their hair out")
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 25 at 16:49
  • 1
    Yes, but I wouldn't describe those as "tossing". I think the tossing idea comes from the actions of animals (goats, deer) as they square up to each to each other to fight. The "with both hands" relates to the idea of "pulling one's hair out in frustration", and the two have been clumsily merged. Basically I think that this is just a hastily written fragment that doesn't bear close analysis.
    – James K
    Commented Feb 25 at 17:00
  • It's hardly "close analysis" to point out that the passage is referring to behavior so stereotypical and iconographic that there are "stock photos" available.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 25 at 17:08
  • I still can't find any of "tossing" only "pulling".
    – James K
    Commented Feb 25 at 17:29

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