Footnote Fever

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"Footnotes are the finer-suckered surfaces that allow tentacular paragraphs to hold fast to the wider reality of the library."
Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine

Footnotes[1] are a valuable literary device[2] and not just for scholars or high school students who need to pad out a report on the "Life and Death of Joan of Arc".[3] No, authors of fiction use them too and often in various interesting and experimental ways.[4] These footnotes could contain jokes,[5] more information about what's going on in the story,[6] or even an entirely different story.[7] These authors have Footnote Fever![8]

For the Web Comic equivalent, see Alt Text.

Examples of Footnote Fever include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Junko Mizuno's Pure Trance manga has footnotes for every character, item, and animal in the story on every page, as well as several full-page notes and random artwork. While these "notes" are numbered, they aren't directly connected to the story.
  • Welcome to Lodoss Island, which tells the story of the manga version of Record Of Lodoss Island entirely in comical omakes, often has translator's notes explaining puns (for example, that "aho", in addition to being one of the Japanese transliterations of the noise a crow makes, is also Japanese for dumbass). In one, however, Parn describes goblins in a rather nonsensical manner, and the translator's note states that Parn is babbling like a retard even in the original Japanese.
  • Yuria 100 Shiki is filled with Little Yellow Boxes explaining how Yuria's current bizarre behaviour relates to her programming as a Sex Bot.
  • This trope is often employed by some authors (e.g.: Tsukasa Hojo and Wataru Yoshizumi) for "author's commentary"; for example, in Yoshizumi's Mint Na Bokura, one character wonders out loud "Why didn't I think of this earlier?", and below the panel there's written "...Because you're an idiot?"
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has a lot of these captions; in particular, the "Miu has a habit of throwing anyone standing behind her" box is practically a running gag. And many times when a person appears, a little box with their name (and character summary) will pop up. As there are Loads and Loads of Characters, this can be helpful in keeping track of everyone, but it also applies to people who show up all the time, like Kenichi's masters. So we get captions like "Appachai: Death God Of Muay Thai" and "Sakaki Shio: The 100-Dan Karate Master", like every ten chapters or so.
  • Shirow Masamune is a footnote maniac. Just wait 'til you read Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface (assuming you get to understand it).
  • Not footnotes, but the fantranslated manga Saki includes pages of end notes after each chapter to explain what's going on to people who don't play Mahjong
  • GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class's art edutainment tendencies plus the heavy use of puns means every manga volume by Yen Press has at least 4 pages of translator's notes.
    • To contrast, Hidamari Sketch, also in a high scholl arts program setting, of which Yen Press publishes as Sunshine Sketch, manages only 1 page of notes per volume (and in volume 4, more than 50% of that page is blank). It's amazing what a slight change in focus can do...
  • K-On! is also translated by Yen Press, and also has around 4 pages of translator's notes at the end of each volume. Like GA, heavy use of puns and other cultural stuff is to blame.
  • Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service has extremely thorough footnotes, mainly translating all the SFX that were left in the original Japanese, but also explaining historical events, relevant cultural tidbits, etc. The footnotes in the first few volumes tended to be heavy on the SFX and rather dry in describing the other things, but as the series progressed the footnotes started getting more entertaining; with the editor rambling on subjects only tangentially related to the original footnote, cracking jokes, and generally sounding a lot less formal.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The usual reason for footnotes in comics is to provide the Clue From Ed that tells you what other comic you should have been reading in order to understand what the characters are talking about.
  • SHIELD*
    • * Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division.
  • Alan Moore's From Hell contains pages upon pages of footnotes in the appendix, though most of them aren't called out in the actual panels. Keeping a bookmark in the appendix can be a necessity.
  • Jack Chick's tracts are chock full of them, usually biblical verses.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog uses this constantly, though it seems to be Depending On The Editor.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Translations tends to get this quite badly. As the main problem of translation deals with how to get across metaphors, hidden meanings, pop cultural references, allusions and anything else to readers who are unfamiliar to the original writer's culture. Methods to deal with this boils down to Woolseyism or footnoting (for references that are too difficult to explain and keep the narrative flow uninterrupted). Obviously, translations to seriously unrelated languages tends to devolve into footnote fever quite quickly. For example, the French translation of Twilight used zero footnotes, while the Chinese translation averaged one footnote every five pages; the scene where Edward and Bella discuss their university plans entailed a half page long note on American universities, their cultural connotation, and the mechanics of the SAT.
  • Try finding an example of the Divine Comedy that's not at least 50% footnotes.
    • Justified, since it's the translators throwing them in. Dante assumed his readers knew what he was talking about in his detailed parody of contemporary Italian politics, extensive reference to Biblical and Mythological sources, and common folk tales that haven't been widely told since the Renaissance.
      • There's one notorious instance in the Paradiso where the first ever Dante commenter (his own son and co-writer) admits he doesn't have a clue what Dante was talking about.
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett uses footnotes to great comedic effect, memorably setting up a king-sized Brick Joke about Elvis. Also, backstory, digressions, gags, and Call Backs abound.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has a number of footnotes; each one starts out fairly informative but soon degenerates turns into an AWESOME rant against Trujillo, the then-dictator of the Dominican Republic.
  • Parodied, like everything else, in the City of Dreaming Books novels by Walter Moers. Since they are the autobiography of the Author Avatar, who himself is a parody, the footnotes are all from the Author Avatar and not the author, which makes them very worth reading, as they usually include even more hilarity. Unless they have been inserted by the Translator Avatar.
  • Terry Pratchett uses footnotes a lot, to the extent that a book of his shorter works was called Once More[9]
    • He even adds footnotes to his footnotes, and footnotes to those. Though almost always, they are there for extra comedy value.
    • One footnote from a Discworld book was included as part of a quotation cited in a non-fiction chapter of a Science of Discworld book. This footnote (footquote?), in turn, had a footnote explaining all this.[10]
    • In some of the play adaptations, the Footnote is a character; a Lemony Narrator carrying a staff with an asterisk on top, who provides both Exposition and really funny lines from the text, if they can't be worked into anyone's dialogue. At least one version had two Footnote characters who kept interrupting the play and each other.
  • House of Leaves weaves a whole story in its footnotes, often using footnotes within footnotes within footnotes to create "windows" or mazes in the book. Eventually, you start thinking, "Oh god, there's another footnote. Hopefully it'll be an interesting yet pointless sidestory, instead of a ten-page-long list of famous photographers." Yeah, it's a Mind Screw. The physical orientation of the footnotes on the page also works to reflect the twisted feeling of the plot (often taking up several pages, appearing mirrored from page to page, vertical on either side of the page, or in boxes in the center of the page, in the middle of the central narrative).
    • What's interesting is that a lot of those afformentioned lists of famous photographers (or whatever) actually have coded messages.
  • Thursday Next has her footnoterphone, which people in the Bookworld use as phones or personal radios.
    • More than that, in one of the books, (the third, maybe?) Thursday escapes from danger by escaping into the footnotes of the book. The main story, which had been in the first person up until that point, becomes a very dry third-person narration until she rejoins the narrative once it's safe.
    • A printing error in First Among Sequels meant that footnotes were omitted. Confusing doesn't cover it.
  • To quote an Amazon review for REAL Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book, "[w]hile the book is primarily made up of the same material that is posted on the website, the true point of the book is hidden in its footnotes [...] [which] tell the story of a troubled kid who buries himself in a ninja fantasy in order to escape his negligent parents, over-critical teachers and to compensate for his lack of friends." The story of the footnotes and the main text are very different.
  • The Horrible History books and some similar series use this occasionally—the Coping With series in particular loved this trope.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy uses this as well.
  • They also show up in the Harry Potter spin-off books Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
    • Even better are the (official) Chinese versions. In addition to the footnotes that are needed (explaining an English-language joke that didn't translate, like "It's getting Blacker every day"), there are footnotes that explain what is going on, like "This is not a typo, Slughorn just mistook Ron Weasley's name." Even better? The by the fifth book, it seems the publishers decided Harry Potter would be a great place to advertise for other books, so when someone mentions a Quidditch move or an animal, there is a footnote that basically says, "For more information on ______, please read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, published by the People's Chinese Publication Company." They stopped doing the ads by the sixth book, though.
    • The Japanese version doesn't bother with footnotes, they cram all the Western Magic info into a handy fold-out pamphlet.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Used to reflect the fact the narrator, a djinn, can keep track of several trains of thought simultaneously. And basically to add sarcastic and/or bragging asides. It was also a nice method of adding details about people/places without derailing the story's momentum.

"I could read four stories printed on top of each other. The best I can do for you is footnotes."

    • Toward the end of the last book, Bartimaeus ends up Sharing a Body with Nathaniel. The first time he inserts a footnote after this occurs, he's cut short and back in the main text, Nathaniel tells him to "stop doing that". This is the only time a footnote appears outside the Bartimaeus chapters.
  • Jack Vance's science fiction novels use footnotes (as well as epigraphs) for exposition.9
  • Garrison Keillor plays with this in his book Lake Wobegon Days, which includes lengthy footnotes and a parallel narrative. A "footnote" stretches over the bottom third or half of at least half a dozen pages. Presumably it's not included in the main body of text JUST for the humor value. In one small-print copy, it lasts twenty-five pages.
  • Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!) plays with this quite a bit, not just in footnotes but also in sidenotes.10
  • The Daily Show's America: The Book, too. Here, the sidenotes are to keep up the illusion of being a school textbook, which often have all sorts of bizarre infoboxes in the margins. The footnotes are unexplainable except by Rule of Funny, however.
    • America: The Book also has a faux essay on "How to Filibuster" that's basically a page of footnotes, footnotes within footnotes, symbols that look like footnotes within footnotes...
      • A later "Teacher's Edition" of America: The Book adds another layer of commentary, in the form of angry red notes scrawled all through the book by a history professor who is almost but not quite aware that the book is comedy.
  • Michael Gerber's Barry Trotter parody books used footnotes to expand one-line jokes in the text into paragraph-long comedic monologues that would otherwise break the flow of the narrative. They were funny, too, until book number three.
  • John Norman (author of the Gor series) wrote 'Imaginative Sex', a book of SF/F sexual fantasies for couples to use in spicing up their sex lives. The fantasy scenes are often interrupted by extremely long footnotes that attempt to rationalise the setting. Or explain the evils of Feminism. Or explain that women wear pants as a way of appealing to the latent homosexual in their man.
  • Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell has numerous footnotes that mostly detail the history and folklore surrounding the topic of magic. These footnotes regularly take up more space than the main body and occasionally gobble up a whole page.
  • Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire is an entire novel consisting of footnotes to a poem, the main plot is told through the footnotes of a fictional editor.
    • 400 pages of notes to 37 pages of poetry. Probably qualifies as the most disproportionate amount of footnotes to lines of text in existence.
  • Robert Anton Wilson's The Widow's Son has very detailed footnotes and when the protagonist starts going insane, the footnotes go insane with him and start mentioning complete irrelevancies.
  • Mark Dunn's Ibid: A Life consists of the endnotes to a fictitious biography whose manuscript was accidentally destroyed.
  • Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) novels include the commentary of Amberley Vail in footnotes. As Vail is a character in her own right, and in some respects more reliable than Ciaphas himself, they often provide humorous additions or her perspective on events when she feels Cain's narrative is lacking something.
  • Dave Barry is also a fan of these. He likes to allude to things in the main text, only to have the footnote say that such a thing doesn't exist. He also uses them to give punchlines based on running gags. In fact, the more "serious" the main text becomes, the more the subtitles seem like he's MSTing himself.
  • David Foster Wallace's Metafictional magnum opus, Infinite Jest, is 1,079 pages long. 96 of these pages contain the novel's 388 endnotes, some over a dozen pages long. Several literary critics suggested that the book be read with two bookmarks. Wallace uses footnotes in much of his other writing as well.
  • The Gospel According to Larry and its sequel, Vote For Larry, have humorous (and sometimes informative) footnotes dotted about the books.
  • Philip José Farmer's Sherlock Holmes/Tarzan crossover, The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, has an altogether unnecessary number of pseudo-scholarly footnotes. At one point Holmes is given the entirely inappropriate line, "Watson, isn't that a*****e firing a machine gun?"; in a dreary attempt at wit, the footnote explores whether Watson in writing this adventure used the wrong number of asterisks, or whether Holmes actually used the seven-letter rather than the appropriately British eight-letter form because the a*****e under discussion was American. Then again, a lot of Sherlock Holmes pastiche novels feature footnotes, for example Nicholas Meyer makes use of them in "The Seven Percent Solution". So more favourable view of this case would be it's a way of playing along with the whole "found manuscript" thing.
  • Most English translations of The Bible are full of footnotes - generally cross-references to other verses and useful notes that are often repeated over and over because people treat the Bible as a reference book rather than read it through.
    • If You Thought That Was Bad, try the Book of Mormon.
      • If you thought THAT was bad, try English-language printings of the Hebrew Bible. One third a page of scripture in English, one third a page of scripture in Hebrew, and then two thirds of two pages of commentary.
      • Or better yet, the classic Vilna edition of the Talmud. On pages with complex ideas or cases, the two major commentaries can take up the entire page, with no room whatsoever for the original text until the next page. Note that these pages contain enough text for probably ten "novel"-sized pages.
    • The majority of footnotes in holy books are referencing other, similar material, topical guides, or dictionary definitions, or providing an alternate translation, which helps the lay clergy prepare talks and lessons.

"b. Mana -- n. (Heb.) What is that? [11]"

    • Oxford's Annotated Bible uses footnotes to, of all things, point out where the translator switched a pronoun with its antecedent and vice-versa for better English flow. I know there are inherent problems with translation, dude, but I can trust you with this much...
    • "Study" Bibles can contain as much commentary as text. Notable historical examples include the 1560 Geneva Bible and the 1909 Scofield Reference Bible. The former, having Puritan commentary suggesting limits to the power of the church hierarchy and monarchs, drove King James VI/I to commission a new translation without notes that you may be familiar with. The latter introduced millions of readers to dispensationalist theology and formed a foundation to American fundamentalism.
  • The computer language textbook "Learning Perl" has 3 footnotes on one 119-word section, and includes the footnote "We even discussed doing the entire book as a footnote to save the pagecount, but footnotes on footnotes started to get a bit crazy." 12
    • Hot footnote-on-footnote action?
  • Castle Dreams, a rather surreal and existentialist entry in John DeChancie's Castle Perilous series to begin with, has oodles of fun playing with spurious footnotes. The topics range from somewhat serious explanations of literary tropes, self-referential textual allusions, and obscure plot points to tongue-in-cheek humor, a hilarious send-up of many fantasy tropes, random comments which have nothing at all to do with the book, and even times where the footnote writer propositions the reader for a date. And that doesn't even begin to describe the preface in which the supposed footnote writer reveals he didn't write them at all (or the preface!), as well as quizzes and tests scattered throughout the novel—usually based on info from the footnotes.
  • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green features many footnotes, in which he says: "[They] can allow you to create a kind of secret second narrative, which is important if, say, you're writing a book about what a story is and whether stories are significant." Most of them exist to translate dialog that's in a foreign language, or to explain the math jokes.
  • US Supreme Court decisions are pretty dry reading ... until you start reading the footnotes and realize that just because the justices are the highest legal authority in the U.S. doesn't mean they won't bicker and snark at each other like grade-schoolers.
  • The classic article "Vide Infra" from the Journal of Irreproducible Results consists of half a sentence of text and 24 footnotes (including footnotes within footnotes).
  • George Macdonald Fraser's Flashman novels (which purport to be memoirs) contain copious endnotes about the real people and historic events described. (Sometimes these contradict the narrator's memory.)
    • Or at least they contradict the narrator's account. They tell us that Flashman was an unreliable narrator, rather than Fraser was a poor historian.
  • There's a non-fictional (sort of) example in Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity, a paper by Alan Sokal that was essentially a big joke at postmodernism's expense that has the usual footnotes expected in just about any scientific publication. Some are standard footnotes, but others are easily identified as screwball by anyone who has any understanding of what Sokal is talking about. Which the editors of the journal didn't. Which was the point of the whole exercise.
  • Alexander Pope's mock-epic poem The Dunciad (multiple versions, 1728–43) is also a mock-scholarly edition. On some pages in the original printings, the footnotes are so extensive that there is room for only one line of verse. Modern editions inadvertently take Pope's joke even further, since most of the footnotes now require footnoting.
  • In William Makepeace Thackeray's The History of Henry Esmond (1852), the title character's relatives, who are reading the manuscript of his memoirs, occasionally pop into the footnotes to disagree with Esmond's account of various personal matters.
  • The novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. It's narrated by an autistic teenager who often pauses the narrative to explain his train of thought, discuss a mathematical problem or clarify his words to make absolutely sure that he doesn't accidentally give the wrong impression (he has a total aversion to lying).
  • When literary works contain elements that are specific to said work's original language or place of origin (puns, wordplay, Values Dissonance, etc), a way to prevent it from having elements Lost in Translation is by using Translator's Notes (TN), footnotes where the translator explains said element. Of course, depending on the work, this may result in Footnote Fever.
    • For example, the Portuguese translation of Brave New World includes a footnote for every quoting or paraphrasing of William Shakespeare (usually by John the Savage) containing the source of the quote and the quote in its original form and language. At one point, the footnotes take up half the page. John really likes his Shakespeare.
      • Well, John didn't have any other books.
  • Michael Lawrence's Jiggy McCue series has this in every book.
  • Spanish Author J. J. Benitez does this too on his Caballo de Troya series. Worst offender from the first book: 3 lines of text, 2 PAGES of footnotes. Note this isn't a deconstruction or parody... its a scifi novel of two timenauts under command of the USAF, landing on Jesus' Jerusalem to "Witness His Life and Death".
    • It's possible that he got it from the Bible, given the theme of the book. It's not certain whether he was making fun of it or trying to emulate it, but either way he took it Up to Eleven.
  • Parodied in John Moore's comic fantasy novel Bad Prince Charlie, which contains the following footnote early on:

This looks like a good place for a footnote. Terry Pratchett and Susanna Clarke use lots of footnotes and they write bestsellers, so maybe I should also throw in a few.

  • Robert A. Heinlein's lost novel For Us, The Living aptly demonstrates why it was lost with a two-page footnote that explains the backstory of one of the main characters.
  • Neal Stephenson's footnotes, oddly enough given his overall propensity for self-indulgent digression, are relatively illuminating for times when it would be really, really awkward to put Pervading Historical Fact X in the period character's head.
  • The published script of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) is annotated with a great number of footnotes, many of them entirely frivolous; for example, one footnote is a recipe for guacamole. The great number, to be exact, is 11188, but on closer examination footnotes 100 through 179, 200 through 1179 and 1200 through 11179 appear to have been skipped.
    • The radio show includes frequent breaks for "Audio Footnote Time."
  • Most of pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman's work has copious footnotes. One in Chuck Klosterman IV continues onto a second page.
    • From Killing Yourself To Live:

"For the next 45 minutes, this short-sleeved man gives me a lot of advice. most of it dwells on a) the importance of loving your wife,[12] b) the importance of hunting dog ownership,[13] c) why we have fewer windmills than we used to,[14] d) what's wrong with the American League,[15] e) how to properly fire an employee,[16] f) why life insurance is a sham,[17] g) how to buy or sell a race horse,[18] and h) the complexity of human relationships, particularly in a business setting."

  • A scholarly printing of Finnegans Wake may have at least two inches of footnote for every inch of text, just to explain what's going on in any given passage.
  • War with the Newts by Karel Čapek contains footnotes that encompass several pages, and excerpt from a newspaper in a totally unknown language.
  • Charles Coleman Finlay's Footnotes is a story told via the footnotes of a missing text.
  • The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (a Fan Midquel to the Sherlock Holmes stories), author Nicholas Meyer uses the footnotes to paint the fourth wall—as is customary for Holmsian fanfic, Meyer claims the story is a missing Watson manuscript, so Meyer comments on Watson's throwaway remarks to other cases, incontinuitous remarks, and historical mistakes. The best is when Watson states, "I believe it was in Julius Caesar that the Bard said 'music hath charms to soothe the savage breast'". Meyer's footnote simply states "It isn't."[19]
  • John Hodgman's Complete World Knowledge, being a parody of almanacks, naturally makes good use of these, but More Information Than You Require deserves special mention for going so far as to include a footnote in the title.
  • A non-fiction example. Later editions of books by Oliver Sacks are often hard to read because he adds lots of interesting case details, which happened since the original publication, in the form of extremely long and frequent footnotes.
  • The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien contains extensive and lengthy footnotes in which the narrator expounds the theories and experiments of the great fictional philosopher de Selby. These footnotes span several pages and often overtake the main plotline, and add to the absurdist tone of the book.
  • The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, and its two sequels, The Boy Book and The Treasure Map of Boys.
  • The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons has between 50 and 100 footnotes IN EACH CHAPTER. Simmons usually uses the footnotes for entertaining stories that avoid the over 700 page book from becoming too tedious. Because, well, it's entirely devoted to professional basketball.
  • Ann Coulter is fond of this trope, frequently pointing to the number of footnotes in her books as evidence that they're meticulously researched; however, it has been pointed out that many of her supposed sources either don't feature the attributed quote at all, or have it in a context that gives it a totally different meaning. She responds to some of those accusations here.
  • The Young Ones cash-in, Neil's Book Of The Dead, has a chapter in which a footnote defining the word "vibe" gets its own footnote, which gets its own footnote, et cetera, until the footnotes take over five whole pages and go completely off track until eventually coming full circle to defining "vibe" again. At which point it becomes necessary to define "deja vu" - in a footnote...
  • The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza contains many translator's notes, some of which run for entire pages. While they're initially only about the text itself, the translator, a character in his own right, soon begins to write his research into the text and eventually about his kidnapping, so that the footnotes contain an entire (sub)plot that turns out to be integral to the story.
  • Justified in World War Z, a fictional novel about the aftermath of a global zombie war presented as if it were non-fiction. The footnotes refer to real and fictitious events that took place before and during the war, explain unfamiliar terms, etc.
  • Michael Crichton's novel, Eaters of the Dead, contains real and fake footnotes.
  • J.G. Ballard's "Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown," is one sentence ("A discharged Broadmoor patient compiles 'Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown,' recalling his wife's murder, his trial and exoneration.") and a series of elaborate footnotes to each one of the words.
  • Manuel Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman (originally published in Spanish as El beso de la mujer araña) also makes extensive use of footnotes.
  • Luis d'Antin van Rooten's Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames (the title is in French, but when pronounced, sounds similar to "Mother Goose Rhymes"), in which he is allegedly the editor of a manuscript by the fictional François Charles Fernand d’Antin, contains copious footnotes purporting to help explain the nonsensical French text. The point of the book is that each written French poem sounds like an English nursery rhyme.
  • Ernest Hemingway's Natural History of the Dead uses a footnote to further satirize the style of a history while making a sardonic statement about the extinction of "humanists" in modern society.
  • Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire Historique et Critique follows each brief entry with a footnote (often five or six times the length of the main text) in which saints, historical figures, and other topics are used as examples for philosophical digression. The separate footnotes are designed to contradict each other, and only when multiple footnotes are read together is Bayle's core argument for Fideistic skepticism revealed. This technique was used in part to evade the harsh censorship of 17th century France.
  • Mordecai Richler's novel Barneys Version uses footnotes as a character device that highlights unreliable passages in the narration. As the editor of his father's autobiography, the narrator's son must correct any of his father's misstated facts. The frequency of these corrections increases as the father falls victim to both hubris and Alzheimer's disease. While most of these changes are minor, a few are essential to plot and character development.
  • Bartleby y compañía, a novel by Enrique Vila-Matas, is stylized as footnotes to a nonexistent novel.
  • The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, a collection of humorous historical essays by Will Cuppy, is full of footnotes. Most of them are entirely unenlightening and exist only to tell or extend jokes; one simply reads, "So there."
  • YA-novel "Bad Kitty" loves using footnotes that contain funny arguments between characters or snark about minor characters. Sometimes, the main character will paint the fourth wall by yelling at the other characters to get back up to the story.
  • In his books Trick of the Mind and Confessions of a Conjurer, Derren Brown uses footnotes whenever he wants to talk about something tangential to the main topic. Individual footnotes can frequently exceed five pages in length.
  • The footnotes in The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel) by Ellen Raskin are sometimes humorous sidebars but more often wildly out-of-character hints to young readers.
  • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's The Death Gate Cycle has some of these to provide exposition on various things in the worlds that the protagonists go to.
  • When reading The History of Middle Earth one is very conscious that both JRR Tolkien and his son and editor Christopher Tolkien are Oxford professors and so given to exhaustive footnoting and citations.
  • Articles in the regrettably rare and totally delightful Encyclopedia of Dune are footnoted up the wazoo by a whole board of editors. Not to mention the lengthy and imaginative bibliography.
  • T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" is pretty much half footnotes.
    • Made even more Egregious when it appears in an anthology, because then you've got Eliot's original footnotes plus the anthology's editor's footnotes. Sometimes the editor even has footnotes about Eliot's footnotes.
  • Nick of Time has quite a few footnotes, so you aren't forced to read information you don't want.
  • In Agatha H and The Clockwork Princess, freely used to expand on points and provide backstory.
  • Piers Anthony's But What Of Earth? consists of the first draft of an early sci-fi book that he authored which was savaged by editors with endnotes indicating all of the editor complaints he found unfounded.


Print Media[edit | hide]

  • Following a Margin Notes Arms Race with a rival magazine during the previous console generation, NGamer started using footnotes in its content, with all forms of inversion and parody used by at most, issue six.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Shadowrun books have footnotes on the pages, but since they're supposed to be paper versions of online texts, the footnotes are comment threads, in-character from characters accessing the pages. Pages on equipment may include notes on where and when or when not to use it, organizations and important people get snarks pro and con, etc.
  • The Dresden Files role-playing books have post-it notes used by Harry and Billy to discuss modifications that might need to be made, or Dresden's trademark snark. Bob also chimes in, often leading Billy to wonder how he's doing that.
  • This Magic: The Gathering article on Azorius has a lot more footnotes than the typical article [1]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Infocom game The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy included the famous recursive footnote.11
  • The Feelies-like Game Manual for Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn often ends several descriptions of spells, enemies, and locations with footnotes by Volo—a well-known braggart, being countered by Big E's exasperation at Volo.
  • The Mad Scientist's assistant in Assassin's Creed is in charge of writing a manual for the main character (and by extension, the player), as he's using a machine that shows his ancestor's memories and operates like a videogame. Along the manual, there are various scribbled messages from her boss, including protests about the silliness of having videogame-like controls for such a serious research, and how it would be much easier to just do what they want directly (the videogame controls are supposed to make the main character feel at ease and explore the memories slowly, as opposed to abrupt interruptions which would be dangerous for his mind).
  • Every signpost in Exit Path that doesn't have a picture has a message in big letters with an asterisk at the end, then a message in small letters that begins with an asterisk and clarifies the previous message. This being a Dystopia, the bigger message is typically a blatant lie and the smaller message always resembles something out of Paranoia.
  • The REPCONN Museum in Fallout: New Vegas has a ton of plaques suffering from this.[20]


Web Comics[edit | hide]

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Various Uncyclopedia articles use footnotes for extra jokes.
  • The Conservapedia article for Alger Hiss features 478 footnotes.
  • Why, on this very wiki![21]
  • Articles on The Other Wiki have "See Also" sections (references to other articles) which in effect are endnotes. In one joke edit in 2007 (which sort of still exists), the "Infinite regress" article got a reference to itself.11
  • Beeupyou's Annotated Series on YouTube.
  • In addition to the numerous footnotes in his books mentioned above, Bill Simmons now has footnotes on his Internet columns thanks to the launch of Grantland.
  • Isoraqathedh, the author of the pony/altworld crossover Ponies on Lyr uses four different types of footnotes, all of which are used liberally.
  • This video mocks Marvel's use of the trope when trying to explain the myriad timelines and dimensions.

8. With Footnotes
9. In other words, his footnotes expand upon brief mentions of persons, places or institutions named in the text, for the enlightenment and edification of the reader.
10. Based on the Colbert Report segment "The Wørd", in which onscreen sidenotes are used to counterpoint Colbert's monologue.
11. This is the famous recursive footnote.11
12. It should be noted that Perl is a language which prides itself on compactness, and as a point of pride, many perl programmers will resort to barely-readable flurries of constructs in the name of, say, writing an entire web server in only three lines of code.
13. There is no reference to this footnote. How did you get here?14
This page incorporates CC-BY-SA material from the English Wikipedia article on Footnote. A list of its contributors can be read on its history page.

  1. First discovered in 1841 in the country of Asteriskia
  2. They'd fetch half a million commas on the black market.
  3. who was not Noah's wife
  4. Everyone experiments in college, right?
  5. What did one footnote say to the other? "Follow me and we'll go places!"
  6. Did you know that I'm writing this while in the nude? Well, I could be!
  7. If, you know, the main story just doesn't grab your attention
  8. Symptoms of Footnote Fever may include phantom hand syndrome, monkey lung, scrofula, late-onset albinism, pulmonary weevils and mild rash
  9. (With Footnotes)
  10. and the explanatory footnote declared itself to be a "metafootnote"
  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynjIoymWHvU
  12. Women need to feel loved in order to feel free, so withholding love from your wife is like sentencing her to prison.
  13. Even if you lose your job, your hunting dog will respect you. In life, this quality is rare.
  14. Something about aquifers.
  15. "It's become goddamn slow-pitch softball."
  16. Concede that you've both made mistakes, but stoically admit that you can't fire yourself.
  17. Insurance salesmen are no different than chiropractors, whatever the fuck that means.
  18. Something about looking at certain bones.
  19. It was William Congreve in The Mourning Bride.
  20. This statement not admissible in court.
  21. see?