"Footnotes are the finer-suckered surfaces that allow tentacular paragraphs to hold fast to the wider reality of the library."
— Nicholson Baker, The Mezzanine
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
Only rarely applies in Non-Fiction Literature
, where citation is often done with footnotes and is a feature of the medium.
For the Web Comic
equivalent, see Alt Text
. Contrast Colon Cancer
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Anime and Manga
- Most translations (both official and non-officials) of a manga series will have these to explain certain words, places or real life persons.
- 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 a fan translation of the 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 school 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.
- Shinobuden is really heavy with this. In volume 1, there's almost half as many footnotes as their are pages (63 footnotes, 148 pages) and 31 of those footnotes are needlessly big with the biggest being two footnotes that are three sentences and 75 words long. Not to mention that they pop up literally every two or three pages as well.
- School Rumble's author slips tossing a quick joke or observation on the sides of the manga's panels to sometimes add to the delivery, explore a character's motivations, or snark at the cast's wackiness.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Chick Tracts are chock full of them, usually biblical verses.
- Sonic the Hedgehog uses this constantly, though it seems to be Depending On The Editor.
- DC Comics' run of Cartoon Network's Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi uses footnotes to translate some of the Japanese words used in the characters' dialogue balloons.
- The Astérix comics often use footnotes to highlight Historical In-Jokes.
- In Total Drama Island, by Gilbert and Sullivan, Footnote Fever manifests in two ways:
- Because the compilation uses so many verses, and to preserve some sense of Gilbert’s stories, the verses are segregated into a separate section. A cross-referencing system enables the reader to move quickly between the plot summaries (called the Guide To Incidents) and the verses.
- Many of the more obscure terms in the verses are marked either with underlining (in the web-based version) or a different color font (in the PDF version) to indicate that they have Glossary entries.
- The Legend of Total Drama Island has an extensive Notes section that mainly serves to explain the more obscure allusions.
- Warriors of the World occasionally has footnotes scattered throughout chapters to shed background worldbuilding info on any odd terminology and names, and to translate Rogue Slang and Morrocian if it's not translated in-universe.
- Book Of Days features not only Twilight Sparkle's footnotes to help explain pieces of Clover the Clever's journal (which the entire work is supposed to be Twilight's translation of) but also banter from Princess Celestia and Luna.
- Ralph Hayes, Jr. is fond of this — most of his fanfics have every chapter end with notes involving in-universe commentary on things within each chapter. And they tend to be the most hilarious part of each story.
- The filk song "Heroine Barbarian" by Kevin Wald is a highly footnoted 1 parody of the Gilbert and Sullivan patter song "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General" 2 about Xena: Warrior Princess. It can be found here.
- The Celestia Code does this often, to humorous effect.
- Translations tend 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 boil down to Woolseyism or footnoting (for references that are too difficult to explain and keep the narrative flow uninterrupted). Obviously, translation into 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. 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 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*
- 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 The Science of Discworld book. This footnote (footquote?), in turn, had a footnote explaining all this * .
- 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.
- He managed to write a Drabble with a footnote.* †
- 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 Histories books and some similar series use this occasionally — the Coping With series in particular loved this trope.
- The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy uses this as well.
- Indeed, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy spun off whole other stories in its footnotes, one of which was later expanded into the computer game and book Starship Titanic.
- 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.
- Bartimaeus really takes this up to ridiculous heights in the prequel where this is one instance of him putting a footnote inside his footnote when snarking about the abilities of Solomon's ring. To distinguish this from normal footnotes, he uses a star instead of a number.
- 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.
- They start out as a parody of the footnotes in The Third Policeman, complete with the discussion of the imaginary philosopher De Selby. Indeed, De Selby actually appears as a character at one point, although it may well be the protagonist's hallucination.
- A theory is advanced at one point that footnotes are a parasitic lifeform, living off the main text and symbiotic with it. the footnotes to TWS read like a separate novel, a literary infection trying to break into the main text, and succeeding in several places.
- 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 MS Ting 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 Jose 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.
- 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.
- 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. This isn't limited to Supreme Court decisions, either. Snarky, snide, or just plain funny footnotes can be found in decisions from every level of the court system.
- 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 Mac Donald 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.)
- 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.
- 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 Complete Works of William 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,* b) the importance of hunting dog ownership,* c) why we have fewer windmills than we used to,* d) what's wrong with the American League,* e) how to properly fire an employee,* f) why life insurance is a sham,* g) how to buy or sell a race horse,* and h) the complexity of human relationships, particularly in a business setting."
- A scholarly printing of Finnegan's 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 Percent Solution uses the footnotes to paint the fourth wall — as is customary for Holmesian 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:
I believe it was in Julius Caesar
that the Bard said 'music hath charms to soothe the savage breast and calm the restless spirit, ...
(Meyer, in footnote) It isn't.*
- 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.
- All over the place 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, The 13th Warrior (aka Eaters of the Dead), contains real and fake footnotes.
- This was incorporated into the audiobook version of the novel, where the main narrative was read by an actor, while the footnotes were read by Crichton.
- 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 Barney's 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 medium 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. One chapter begins with a footnote suggesting that those who are horse lovers rather than puzzle lovers skip to the next chapter.
- 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 J. R. R. 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.
- Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket has many fictitious footnotes referencing non-existing books with great accuracy, so much so that it was itself used as a reference by authors who didn't know any better.
- The new-series Myth Adventures novels make a Running Gag of using footnotes to shamelessly plug the old series novels.
- Austrian writer Friederike Mayroecker's 2010 book ich bin in der Anstalt: Fusznoten zu einem nichtgeschriebenen Werk ("I'm at the asylum: footnotes to a nonwritten work") is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Simply Weird: The (fake) History of Weird Comics Incorporated, A (fake) Comic Book Company has a total of 47 footnotes!
- Steven Brust's Phoenix Guard series is in-universe historical romance, complete with pompous in-universe author, Paarfi of Roundwood. Paarfi occasionally footnotes background info (in addition to the copious amounts already there in the text). Brust (the actual author) occasionally puts in a footnote to inform the reader when Paarfi is being less than strictly honest, usually about his own qualifications.
- Return To The Willows, a fan-written followup to The Wind in the Willows does this. The American edition has a number of footnotes to explain British terms, but there are a number of other footnotes, including one explaining the concept of life not being fair, and another directing readers back to the previous footnote when Mr. Toad complains to himself about how unfair things are.
- The annotated versions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The latter has a span of four pages that consists entirely of footnotes.
- The Spy Gear Adventures series by Rick Barba uses lots of footnotes for comedy.
- Beauty Queens uses footnotes to make comic asides, fictional pop culture references and describe imaginary products.
- Isaac Asimov's mystery novel Murder At The ABA is told in the form of protagonist Darius Just's account of (fictional) events as told to Asimov. The book contains scattered footnotes in which Just and Asimov snipe at each other, though this comes to an end as the story reaches its climax.
- In Poland, translation of textbooks made by Jagiellonian University are infamous for going as far as providing footnotes to footnotes of the original footnotes. With Purple Prose. It's not helping that the faculty cosiders this as a perfect way of doing "proper" translation, banning any other form of it from being published by the university's printhouse. More often than not this ends up with an indigestable book containing more footnotes than the actual content.
- For Want of a Nail is an Alternate History work where the American Revolution failed, and it's notable for it's extensive footnotes and references to academic books that don't exist.
- The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch is loaded with this. It also appears in his Write This Book: A Do-It-Yourself Mystery, which has a footnote below a footnote that explains footnotes. "Usually, footnotes are indicated by a star or stars (plural) like these ***." The *** labeled footnote says "Ha. Made you look."
- In Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken, Chapter 2 has several Take Thats about Ann Coulter's misleading use of endnotes, which are like footnotes but less easy to reference (because they appear at the end of the book instead of on the same page) and thus easier to lie with. The chapter links to the only two endnotes in the book, the first to set straight a deliberately misleading debunking of a factual inaccuracy in Coulter's Slander, the second simply to point out how hard endnotes are to find. The last paragraph of the chapter abuses footnotes deliberately:
So that's how you lie with footnotes. Disgusting, huh? But it's not just you who thinks so. Even people Coulter considers friends says she's "a lying bitch," 3 "a horror show of epic proportions," 4 "oh, the poor thing," 5 and "a bitch." 6
- Science writer Mary Roach, author of Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and Packing for Mars, has a habit of throwing in copious footnotes. In keeping with the main text of her books, these footnotes are funny about as often as they are informative.
- There was a minor Victorian poet whose only collection of poems is full of footnotes; in one four-line poem about the death of Lord Palmerston, the footnote is longer than the actual poem. Elsewhere, he'd footnote anything which he thought wasn't clear enough: for example, in the line 'The captain scans the ruffled zone', he footnoted 'zone' and the footnote read 'A figurative expression, intended by the author to signify the horizon.' This need to be unambiguous may or may not have had something to do with the poet's day job as a customs officer. What's especially funny about this is the poet's name: Edward Edwin Foot.
- As indicated in the page quote, Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine is liberally salted with footnotes to try to catch the little details of a day that one might otherwise miss.
- Following a Margin Notes Arms Race with a rival magazine during the previous console generation, N Gamer started using footnotes in its content, with all forms of inversion and parody used by at most, issue six.
- 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 the skull also chimes in, often leading Billy to wonder how he's doing that.
- 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 Warhammer magazine White Dwarf usually doesn't indulge in this, but one series of articles about Wood Elves called "Winter Comes To The Forest" from a few years ago reveled in it.
- GURPS favours sidebars or box-outs (depending on edition) rather than footnotes, but the GURPS-based Discworld Roleplaying Game includes footnotes in order to better emulate its source material. It also has sidebars, and even footnotes in the sidebars.
- 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.*
- Irregular Webcomic! frequently has annotations to help people get the joke, or explain the background to a concept in the strip. One strip, though, degenerated into a cluster Footnote-Bomb. Also, here's an example that might considered as ironic. And then there's this.
- Many Webcomics use title text, also known as Alt Text or mouseover text, in a way similar to footnotes.
- And some, such as Digger, use footnotes. Digger uses them for anecdotes, world-building, wombat curses, and explaining the occasional use of Unsound Effect instead of onomatopoeia ("There IS no feasible onomatopoeia for this.").
- Suicide for Hire uses them a lot; in this page for example, there are three of them, pointing out how obvious someone is while they think they're hiding, among other things.
- Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary uses footnotes to explain some of the dicey details and cultural references that would ruin the narrative if explained in-story, as well as additional jokes.
- Parodied by xkcd in "Footnote Labyrinths", which has recursive footnotes among other things. Another xkcd footnotes an IHOP menu in the style of House of Leaves.
- Narbonic thoroughly abused them, in a direct Shout-Out to their use in Marvel comics as a Clue from Ed.. This very quickly ended after Helen told them off.
- Various Uncyclopedia articles use footnotes for extra jokes.
- The Conservapedia article for Alger Hiss features 478 footnotes. It has since been edited.note
- Why, on this very wiki!*
- 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
- The Annotated Series is named for the YouTube feature.
- 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.
- Geek Rage loves using footnotes, going as far as having "***" for a footnote.
- Sporcle's founder did an article filled with these in discussing disputed countries of their "Countries of the World" quiz. But of course the footnotes are mostly jokes.
- Randall Munroe does it again in his science blog What If?, in the entry Frozen Rivers:
Main text: Melting ice takes a lot of energy, but the ice in this scenario would be spread out in thin strands across the country, so it would all melt pretty fast. 
Footnote : Strangely, solid ice usually melts faster than snow—not only in terms of weight, but in terms of inches melted per day. 
Footnote : Or centimetres.
Footnote : Woah, I can nest 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.