I Can Eat Glass

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The phrase is used as sample text for displaying Chinese fonts in GNOME Font Viewer. This screenshot shows the Simplified Chinese translation of "I can eat glass, it does not hurt me."

I Can Eat Glass was a linguistic project documented on the early Web by then-Harvard student Ethan Mollick.[1] The objective was to provide speakers with translations of the phrase "I can eat glass, it does not hurt me" from a wide variety of languages; the phrase was chosen because of its unorthodox nature. Mollick's original page disappeared in or about June 2004.[2]

As Mollick explained, visitors to a foreign country have "an irresistible urge" to say something in that language, and whatever they say (a cited example being along the lines of "Where is the bathroom?") usually marks them as tourists immediately. Saying "I can eat glass, it does not hurt me", however, ensures that the speaker "will be viewed as an insane native, and treated with dignity and respect".

The project grew to considerable size since web surfers were invited to submit translations.[3] The phrase was translated into over 150 languages, including some that are fictional or invented, as well as into code from various computer languages. It became an Internet meme.[4]


  1. ^ Finegan, Edward (2004). Language: its structure and use. Thomson Wadsworth. p. 254. ISBN 9780838407943. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  2. ^ "UTF-8 Sampler".
  3. ^ Blyth, Carl S. (2000). Untangling the Web: Nonce's Guide to Language and Culture on the Internet. John Wiley & Sons. p. 48. ISBN 9780471392477. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  4. ^ Wooten, Adam (21 October 2011). "International Business: Potty language: Safely navigating international water closets". Deseret News. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2013.

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