Genius Bonus

E = MC Hammer not good enough for you? Twilight Sparkle does time dilation.

"And here we go, another reference no one gets but you. Consider your audience once in a while, huh?"
Daru, Steins;Gate

A joke or tidbit meant for people knowledgeable in a certain field. The rest of the audience doesn't get it, but it's usually subtle enough for them not to care. This is the non-age-related counterpart to Parental Bonus.

Genius Bonuses are most often seen in series with a Direct Demographic, especially New Media, as they can expect their audiences to be sufficiently focused that most of them will recognize an in-joke.

If this goes too far, it falls into Viewers Are Geniuses, so it has to be applied carefully. If it seems to be a byproduct of necessary research into the story, setting or plot, then the author is showing their work. Understanding one of these may lead to Fridge Brilliance.

Whenever a series of Zeroes and Ones or two-digit hex codes are shown, chances are they'll spell out something when translated to ASCII.

A Super Trope to Lampshaded the Obscure Reference.

Can overlap with Reference Overdosed.

Contrast with Small Reference Pools.


    open/close all folders 

  • Volkswagen's "Fahrvergnügen" campaign may sound like Gratuitous German, but it's actually a legitimate (though apparently, not often used) German wordnote . According to the campaign's slogan, "it's what makes a car a Volkswagen".


    Comic Books 
  • Brazilian comic book Monica's Gang has Chauvinist as a character's pet pig name
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore. Just try to catch all the references in it to Victorian literature, politics, and events.
  • Moore's V for Vendetta. Nearly every other sentence V utters is a quote from some famous writer. Lampshaded near the end.
  • Although the Batman graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison can be enjoyed as a psychological horror story with drool-worthy art, readers with a knowledge of Jungian psychology and symbolism (or who own a copy of the fifteenth anniversary edition with Morrison's annotated script) will get much more out of it.
  • As a Fantasy Kitchen Sink series, Finder is overflowing with obscure and unusual references. The author wisely chooses to weave most of them into the background and leave the most complex and unwieldy connections in the (substantial) footnotes.
  • Body Bags. The city where all the action takes place is Terminus, Georgia. A little research reveals that Terminus was the original name of the city of Atlanta. By this the reader can assume that Terminus is just Future Atlanta.
  • In Knight & Squire #3, Britain is under threat from the Bad Kings of England, superpowered clones of the originals. Each of them attempts to conquer a different area of the country; Edward I takes the north, and his superpower is a massive energy-mallet. If you know the real Edward was called the Hammer of the Scots...
  • You sure have to have read a lot to catch all the mythological and literary references in The Sandman. Just to throw in a few:
    • World's End has many parallels with The Decameron.
    • William Shakespeare plays a significant secondary role during the whole series. Bonus points if you are familiar with the relevance of The Tempest in Shakespearean studies.
    • Lucifer quotes Satan from Paradise Lost and immediately claims having borrowed the quote from Milton.
    • There are characters a-plenty from different traditions: Morpheus, Orpheus, Calliope (Greek Mythology); Odin, Loki (Norse Mythology); God, Lucifer, Azazel (Christianity); Ra, Bastet (Egyptian Mythology); the Three (found in multiple traditions as the embodiment of femininity); and many, many more.
    • Why and how does abusing a woman named Calliope make you a bestseller author? If you're familiar with the concept of Muses you will get it: not everyone is, nowadays.
    • The Fair Folk sent to parlay with Morpheus in Season of Mists say that they want an end to the tithe they've been paying to Hell. If you're familiar with the 400-year-old Child Ballad "Tam Lin", this will make perfect sense. If not, well...
  • An Italian Donald Duck comic story had Daisy Duck and her friends eating madeleine cookies. One of the friends remarked "The memories they awaken..." If you're a fan of Marcel Proust, a writer most adults consider too "heavy" to read, you recognize this reference to classic, deep French literature. In a children's comic. Never let it be said that the Walt Disney company underestimate the smarts of their readers.
  • In the first issue of Seven Soldiers: The Shining Knight, all the stuff about King Arthur plundering the realm of the Sheeda with three ships, and only seven men returning, but they did get the Cauldron of Rebirth out of it? Straight from the less-well-known Arthurian epic The Spoils of Annwn, supposedly by Taliesin. "Revolving Castle" is one of many possible translations of the Welsh Caer Sidi; others being "Castle of the Mound" and "Castle of the Zodiac".
  • Astérix: Numerous references to the Antiquity and Latin language that only history buffs and latinists will understand. Little jokes referencing French literature and linguistic braintwisters are also thrown in.
    • In Caesar's Gift Asterix has a sword fight against a Roman with a large red drunkard's nose and quotes lines that are directly lifted from Cyrano de Bergerac, in which the protagonist also has a Gag Nose. This clever joke loses somewhat of its power in the English translation, where Asterix quotes Hamlet instead.
    • Everything the crippled pirate in Asterix says is untranslated Latin, but always fits the situation.
    • The entire battle between the Belgians and Caesar in Asterix in Belgium is accompanied by text on scrolls which is a linguistic spoof of Victor Hugo's Les Châtiments, a poem written about the Battle of Waterloo. A double joke in the sense that Caesar too loses the battle and that Waterloo is located in Belgium.
  • Peanuts: Whenever Schroeder plays piano the note transcriptions are actual melodies. Charles M. Schulz did this just for fun, knowing that only people who could read notes would be able to read and possibly recognize the piece.

     Fan Works 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged has a few examples, usually spouted by Gohan (to which Piccolo retorts "neeeeerrrddd"). But one of the more subtle ones was Piccolo's "Damn you, Pavlov" moment, which was followed by an interrupted explanation of who Pavlov was.
    • The Namekians all speak in Klingon as well.
  • Among the topics discussed/mentioned in one episode of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series include squat lobsters that perform chemosynthesis, as well as acromegaly.
    • Then there's "SouthWest Pacific", which is about Calvin performing in a school play. What does the title mean, then? Well, during World War II there was an area entitled South West Pacific, where many important things happened. The wartime definition for this? A theater.
  • Subverted in You Got HaruhiRolled!. It includes a parody of Eliezer Yudkowsky's "AI in a Box" thought experiment, with Kuyou as the AI and Kyon's sister as the gatekeeper, but the narration right out tells the readers of the experiment beforehand.
  • In The Powers Of Harmony, much of the backstory mythology is tied into a group called the Order of the Zodiac, whose members had the names of the Zodiac constellations. Bearing that in mind, also take into account Ophiuchus (an Energy Being whose existence is crucial to the plot) and Cetus (the Big Bad) — Ophiuchus and Cetus are also the names of constellations (the Snake and the Whale, respectfully) considered in some circles to be the unofficial thirteenth and fourteenth Zodiac symbols.
  • Fi M fics by Bad Horse tend to reference literature and philosophy as core parts of the story.
    • The Descendant is famous for Christian theological and thematic undertones in his works.
    • Kalash93 is known for two things: Writing weapons and combat well enough to qualify as an expert, and making lots of linguistic and cultural references to both current and past events and groups in Eurasia, especially the Caucasus Mountains. Bilingual Bonus may as well be a trademark trope.
  • The Original Character Trent's name is this from the Resident Evil novelizations. There are a number of placeholder names in Cryptography for archetypal characters. Alice and Bob are communicators, Eve is an eavesdropper, Mallory is a malicious hacker, and Trent is a neutral third party who's role whose exact role varies from protocol to protocol.
  • Bait and Switch has a bit character named S'bek, a Gorn who is the skipper of an independent freighter. The author mentions in the author's notes on DeviantArt that the name is a play on Sobek, an ancient Egyptian river god depicted with the head of a crocodile.
  • In Jeconais' Harry Potter fanfic Happily Ever After, a knowledge of psychology will let the reader suspect the main plot twist well ahead of its reveal in-story. No reputable or competent psychologist would give a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder for a six-year-old child. The diagnostic criteria specifically requires that the patient be at least 18 years of age to be diagnosed, as several of the possible symptoms are not atypical behavior for small children and are only alarming if they persist unchanged through adolescence and into adulthood. Of course, Gabrielle's psychologist is actually the Big Bad and misleading her parents for his own Svengali-esque agenda, which is exactly why he did it.
  • In Between Minds, Adlivun Electric is the laboratory located in Greenland that discovered the Borealis ship from Half-Life and Portal. Just so happens, Adlivun is analogous to purgatory in Inuit mythology.
  • The Writing On The Wall describes the building that the titular writing is in some detail, making note of metallic thorns built around the place and a room full of warnings in dozens of ancient dead languages. Only people familiar with a proposal for a real life nuclear waste depository will realize that the building really is before the end. The text of the eponymous writing itself is a genius bonus as it is derived from the same proposal. Brr.
  • Bad Future Crusaders:
    • Pavel's silver and eggs joke actually does make sense if you know "eggs" are Russian slang for testicles.
    • Silver Spoon referring to the Cake Twins as "Nicola and Bart" is a reference to Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian-born anarchists who were (unjustly, according to common opinion) tried and executed for their beliefs in the 1920s.
    • Ms. Daydream's rant about the importance of "positive and negative lightning" sounds silly, but is actually a real thing. Given the difference between the two, the polarity of lightning would be a very important thing in a world where lightning was artificial.
  • Readers of Sonic X: Dark Chaos who have read the Malleus Malificarum or Key of Solomon may recognize several Demonish words that are based on demon names from those books.
    • One of Maledict's three Leviathan-class super dreadnoughts is the La Vey. This is a reference to Anton La Vey, founder of the real life Church of Satan and author of 'The Satanic Bible.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Amazing Bobinsky from Coraline wears a Liquidator's Medal on his chest, which was given to the clean-up crew of the Chernobyl Disaster. This turns his baldness and odd color scheme from a funny quirk to a Dark and Troubled Past, when you think about it.
  • The training sequence in Kung Fu Panda is a useful tool for illustrating the concept of subconscious learning.
    aqulia2sax: The analogy with language acquisition is this: The language center is a thinking part of the brain, that is located in the subconscious, its thinking processes hidden away from conscious awareness. Thus, it bears some resemblance to Kungfu Panda's budding kungfu skills, which lurked beneath his awareness.
  • For The Book of Life, the character designs of the soldiers of the town militia are based on the styles of several famous Spanish painters, the most surreal-looking characters being based on Picasso and Dali.
  • Horton Hears a Who!: It's pretty well-known that Jim Carrey likes to insert little impressions in all of his movies. In this kid's movie, as he (who's voicing the titular character) is being chased by the Wickersham Brothers, he randomly does an impersonation of... Henry Kissinger, of all people.
  • Ratatouille:
    No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory â this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ... Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
    • Additionally, if you look at the movie from Chef Skinner's perspective, it starts to look a whole lot like a fantastique story, a genre in which the French excelled in the nineteenth century. Your typical fantastique story is about an ordinary man who grows increasingly obsessed with some supernatural phenomenon, until it destroys his life, but it's never exactly clear if the supernatural phenomenon is real, if it's a conspiracy by persons unknown, or if it's all a delusion in the ordinary man's head. See Skinner's rant about "Is there a rat?" "No! But he wants me to think there's a rat!"
  • Finding Nemo has a Stealth Pun in the title that requires knowledge of Latin to understand. Nemo is Latin for "no one", so the title means "Finding No One". It's also a Shout-Out to Captain Nemo, whose name was itself a genius bonus; Nemo is the Latin equivalent of the Greek Outis, which is the name Odysseus used when blinding the cyclops Polyphemus in The Odyssey.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • FoxTrot author Bill Amend sometimes puts challenging math puzzles in his strips, where only the genius or patient would ever try and solve them. The rest just scratch their heads. Amend also has a real-life degree in physics, so all of the formulas in the series are perfectly accurate.
  • Frazz has one in this strip for climatologists. See Snow Means Cold for details.
  • The Far Side was full of these.
  • Calvin and Hobbes, beginning with the names of the two main characters referencing philosophers John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes.

  • Invoked as a gameplay mechanic in the AC/DC pinball. During the Album and Tour Multiball modes, scoring a multiball jackpot shows either an album or a tour ticket, in Real Life chronological order. If the player's current song first appeared on that album or was first played live on that tour, the player also gets the Song Jackpot as a bonus. Folks who know their AC/DC history have used this to strategically increase their scores.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Little Egypt's Gratuitous Rap in GLOW is surprisingly well-researched.
    • "Even though I may be little, I'm the answer to the Sphinx's riddle" - technically she's right as she is a human after all.
    • "Here's one wrestler who never fails, there's action behind my seven veils" - the dance of the seven veils performed by Salome for her father King Herod's birthday. As a reward she asked for John the Baptist's head on a platter.
      • The character herself is a Genius Bonus as she is a Hot Gypsy Woman when you consider that Gypsies were mistaken as Egyptians by medieval Europeans.
  • Kane. He's the treacherous brother of The Undertaker, and he's the treacherous brother of Abel. The only difference is Xtreme Kool Letterz.
  • In the mid-2000s, WWE fans were treated to a (Kayfabe) mentally-challenged wrestler named Eugene. Ironically, "Eugene" is from a Greek phrase meaning "well-born" (or, less literally, "genetically superior"), which WWE's Eugene definitely was not.
  • Matt Striker is notorious for these. He seems to have a vast knowledge of professional wrestling history and movesets that could constitute an entire encyclopaedia.

  • BBC Radio 4 quiz show The 3rd Degree. Steve Punt's introductions to the specialist rounds usually incorporate some highly esoteric reference to the subject in question. Although this is Played for Laughs, the references do (usually) make sense... if you're an expert.
  • In Dragnet, the idea was to present police work as realistically as possible. So, the characters used accurate police terminology and codes without providing explanations for the audience. In most cases, listeners caught onto what was being said in context. This was carried over into the TV series.
  • In the Adventures in Odyssey epsiode "Stage Fright", the action centers around the "Taft-Hartley Theater" where a School Play is to be held. In professional acting circles (including radio), being "Taft-Hartleyed" refers to a non-union actor being allowed to take ''one'' role in a union-signatory production without joining SAG-AFTRA (incidentally, being Taft-Hartleyed is often the first step to joining said union). Incidentally, Adventures in Odyssey is a union production.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The effect of Last Chapter of the Noble Knights actually works as an elaborate Mythology Gag when taken in tandem with Bedwyr's lore article. The art clearly depicts Bedwyr returning Excaliburn to the lake, and a knight with a red sword about to strike Bedwyr down, thus a knight and arms are lost. But the card returns a Knight and Arms to the field. Why is the dissonance? Bedwyr's lore article describes these events from Merlin's perspective, and Merlin sees time in reverse. The effect is reversed from the events because that's how Merlin sees it.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has such bonuses in spares, ranging from mythology to sf to history. Some of examples:
    • One of early-editions Space Marine Chapters was called Rainbow Warriors. Goofy as it may sound, there's an Aztec myth about Rainbow Warrior who protects all life.
    • Nurgle, Chaos god of plague sounds interestingly similar to Nergal, ancient sumerian god of plague.
    • Tzeentch, god of magic and knowledge, has an avian motive going. Another well-known deity associated with birds is Toth, Egyptian god of... knowledge and magic.
    • Western magic tradition has it that 3 is especially potent. Tzeentch's sacred number is 9, or 3 times 3.
    • One of the first worlds in the path of Tyranid, the Great Devourer, was Prandium, which is Latin for "lunch". Talk about Unfortunate Names...
    • Double-headed eagle, symbol of the Imperium, is a triple-whammy. It has been a symbol of many empires throughout the ages, such as Byzantine, Russian, Austrian and so on. It's also eerily similar to Reichsadler, symbol of Nazi Germany. And for the last, for thousands of years it has been very popular symbol in Anatolia region - the very same one the Emperor is said to originate from.
  • In Shadowrun, the Puyallup Barrens in the Seattle metropolitan area has an abandoned shopping mall called the Crime Mall, which is currently used as a front for many black market dealers. Now consider that the real life town that the Barrens is based on is named after a Native American tribe whose term literally means "the generous people" in their dialect. Given the location of the Crime Mall in that particular town, the name couldn't be any more coincidentally accurate.

  • Cabbage Patch Kids is a well known line of dolls that's been around since 1978. However, what some people may not know is that the name is a reference to one of the myths surrounding "where babies come from". One of those myths is that they're "found in the cabbage patch", inspiring the name of the toyline.
  • One of the dolls in the Lala Loopsy line is Patch Treasurechest, a living doll who likes to play at being a pirate. He's said to have been sewn into life on September 19th... but how many grade-school girls are going to recognize that as International Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day?

  • In Evita, the musical based on the life of Argentine First Lady Eva Perón, mourners at Eva's state funeral sing a Latin chant based on the real-life Roman Catholic prayer, the Salve Regina. The original prayer references the Biblical Eve, known in Latin as Eva, meaning that the chant can be read as a prayer to Eva Perón herself.
  • At the very end of Urinetown, the Narrator, Officer Lockstock, concludes the tale of the eventual decay and collapse of the town's society when people are allowed to use water without restraint by shouting "Hail Malthus!" This is a reference to a Malthusian Catastrophe, which is exactly what Urinetown illustrates.
  • In Irma Vep, stage directions indicate that the innocent-young-girl character is to play a few bars of "The Last Rose of Summer" on the dulcimer. Although "The Last Rose of Summer" is perfect for this gothicky play, being a sentimental Victorian song that's really pretty morbid, few people in the audience will know the words, even if the tune sounds vaguely familiar to them.
  • In Noises Off, Lloyd the director mentions in the second act that another play he is directing is having many problems, including the actor playing Richard III suffering a back injury. This becomes funnier when you remember that Richard III the character has back problems, too.
  • In Company, Joanne says that smoking is the best, saying that it's "better than Librium". Librium was the precursor to Valium and is a sedative/muscle relaxant/anti-anxiety/anti-convulsant drug, mostly prescribed in the short term to treat anxiety. You know what else it's prescribed for? Acute alcohol withdrawal.

     Theme Parks 
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Walt Disney World features a scene in the queue area where you see skeletons of pirates playing chess. The average person would think nothing of the way its arranged, but apparently, Imagineer Marc Davis set up the pieces specifically so that it would result in a neverending game- justifying why the pirates were playing up to their deaths!

  • Irregular Webcomic! does this a lot. DM Maus tends to explain the references for those who don't get them in The Rant, though. Even then, they can be a bit brain-breaking and tough to understand. In this one he goes Up to Eleven by explaining the Banach-Tarski theorem and making it make sense.
  • Schlock Mercenary does a cool arc where the villains use command injection to force a CCTV system to sleep for ten minutes. When a QR code is held up to a security camera, the system reads the commands contained in the code and executes them because the administrators never changed the system's admin username and password from their defaults. The QR code in question is displayed to the reader, so what happens when you use your smartphone's bar code scanner to read the QR code the character is holding up? Your phone returns the following data:
    • UID='ADMIN'
    • CMD='sleep, 600sec, noprompt, fnord'
  • Gunnerkrigg Court makes some obscure references without stopping to explain: Though Reynardine's character is more based on Reynard the Fox, his first meeting with Antimony references the seduction from the English folk song "Reynardine". Similarly, Winsbury and Janet's secret relationship is a reference to the song "Willie O'Winsbury". The First Treatise copies poses and Latin from the Mutus Liber, a 17th-century Hugenot alchemy text. And Chapter 17 references Medieval German master swordsman Johann Liechtenauer.
    • Tom Siddell seems to be particularly fond of song references. Mr. Eglamore's name contains yet another one.
  • Listening To 11.975 MHz, if you understand every obscure literary, mathematical, and radio reference, you need to get out more often.
  • As a comic that bounces around between physics, psychology, math, philosophy, and general geekery jokes, you need to be fairly cosmopolitan in your background to enjoy Dresden Codak. It's worth it though.
    • The author mentions at one point that the comic probably wouldn't work in another medium but the web, where readers don't have near-instantaneous access to obscure information.
  • The entire cast (and most of the dead bodies) in Weapon Brown comes from various syndicated comic strips. Identifying all of them and picking up all the references and in-jokes would take someone who's a talking encyclopedia of the hundred year history of comic strips.
  • This Bob and George:
    Ran: The way I see it, we've broken every law of physics except the third law of thermodynamics.
    Dr. Light: Aha! Negative two Kelvin!
    Ran: Nevermind.
  • xkcd is loaded with these, to the extent that some have called xkcd a series of obscure references that occasionally involve jokes, rather than the other way around.
  • Cyanide & Happiness actually had a week's worth of strips called "90% Of The General Public Won't Understand Week".
  • In a filler comic of El Goonish Shive, the Demonic Duck informs Dan that he's going to Australia to discover his roots. There is fossil evidence of a large, prehistoric bird that lived in Australia which has come to be known as the "Demon Duck of Doom".
  • No Black Plume does this from time to time.
  • Homestuck is chock-full of references to video games, pop culture and bad movies, but its biggest bonuses are probably in astrology.
    • People who study the astrological signs will often find the corresponding trolls to be either spot-on representations of their supposed traits... or humorous subversions. (Such as the tradionally rational, serious Capricorn being deployed as their friendly neighborhood stoner.)
    • The biology bonuses. While Hussie is a bit artistic with the trolls, the fact that the handle abbreviations are genetic code pairs (GCAT), and the fact that Bslick's "cancer" is caused by an error in his genetic code are completely sound. Especially if you consider that the "cancer" was caused by Karkat, whose chum handle (carcinoGeneticist) practically means "creator of Cancer". He's also the Cancer troll, and John changed his handle from valid genetics to "EB", (a mutation) after Karkat messed with Jade, who brought it up, causing John to decide to change his handle. And his Weapon of Choice is a sickle- this initially appears to just be because it resembles a crab's claw, until we find out Karkat is a mutant himself, with the only other troll sharing his blood color being his ancestor. Let's see, sickles and genetic blood disorders caused by a mutation...
    • The first three kids' sylladexes. Those three are commonly used data structures in computer science. Extra Genius Bonus Points goes to Rose's Tree Module, specifically an AVL tree, which mandates that the two subtrees of a binary tree must not have a height that differs by more than 1 (and consequently all the subtrees must follow this rule). As such, the auto-balance is a perfect double rotation that would be used in an AVL tree. Shame it doesn't handle the deletion of the root element very well, like a real AVL tree.
  • The Packrat already expects the reader to be a synth geek, but still, spotting the many unmentioned but accurately drawn synthesizers and other electronic devices is a nice bonus.
  • The Illustrated Guide To Law does this every now and then. In its section on Duress, for example, the members of the outlaw biker gang engage in discussions of physics and philosophy and multiple dimensions while brawling. In its section on Entrapment, the physicist has real equations on the blackboard behind her.
  • Chasing the Sunset plays with this a lot. In one notable instance a broken automaton lets out a stream of plusses and other symbols which, when compiled with a brainf*ck compiler (it's a programming language) spells out "beep".
  • Narbonic is chock full of refs on literature and manga and comics, many of which are not apparent even to the aficionado without reading the "Director's Cut" version.
  • Spinnerette nails it with the engineering crowd by one super hero claiming to fly via the 'Left Hand Rule'.
  • Ursula Vernon, author of Digger, has a degree in antropology and an interest in the more obscure mythologies (South American, Balkian). This shows up frequently in her works.
  • One of the "About" pages for Comments on a Postcard reads "According to an analysis of your IP address, you access this site from a computer located in the Langerhans Islets. In accordance with Langerhans Islets pornography laws, individual pictures will not be displayed." The Islets of Langerhans are groups of hormone-secreting cells in the pancreas.
  • If you suck at remembering flags, you'll have trouble finding the Polandball comics funny. Consider then that many also include references to history, geography, politics, languages, dialects, slang, religions, movies, literature...
    • Ostrakon is a good example of this. The comic's punchline features a Pun on the words "ostracise" (i.e. excluding someone from society) and "Österreich", the German name for Austria. The name of the comic comes from the word ostrakon (which means "shard" in Greek) because the citizens would vote for whom they wanted to banish by writing their names on clay shards.
  • When morphE isn't overtly explaining the game mechanics of Mage: The Awakening it is using spells and information from the source books without any extra focus or attention. Readers with a knowledge of the source books will pick up on these bread crumbs and hints to ongoing mysteries through their understanding of the universe. The rest of the audience are left to discover these facts with the main characters.

    Web Original 
  • AMV Hell, despite being mostly lowbrow humor, has a degree of this in that you need a lot of knowledge about a lot of different shows to get all the jokes.
  • In the Web Serial Novel Dream High School Mr. Army (who isn't the brightest bulb) capitalizes the names of two cheeses wrong in his dialogue. Yes, you read that correctly.
    • You can tell the writer knew the correct capitalization too, because Miss Paloma, who apparantly knows about cheeses, correctly capitalizes them in her dialogue immediately before and after Mr. Army's line.
    • Even more interesting, the particular line of dialogue, "Well, Burrata is good, but I'm much more partial to gouda myself." was provided by a reader who won the opportunity to give the writer a sentence to use in the story. Was the reader testing the author, or was it an accident?
  • The magical young children of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe attend Martha Corey Memorial High School in Nowhere, Ohio. Martha Corey being the first woman convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.
    • British Flying Brick heroine Samsonite, from the same setting, took her name from the indestructible brand of luggage of the same name. Most people assume its a variation on "Samson".
  • Maddox, owner of The Best Page In The Universe, occasionally interjects these in his pages:
    "In fact, this book can be expressed mathematically by the following theorem: lim(manliness -> â) Books = The Alphabet of Manliness"
  • One of Open Blue's mods is Kukulu, a Captain Ersatz of Cthulhu. If you look at his profile, his country section says he's from "Pitcairn", which is the name of one of the three Real Life countries nearest to the canon location of R'lyeh.
  • Darwins Soldiers is laden with little references that are not necessary to the plot but are quite interesting to know about nonetheless. The catch is that one must be fairly well versed in science to understand them.
  • In the Whateley Universe, Phase is almost as snarky as Daria, with refs covering everything from Shakespeare and Sinclair Lewis to Umberto Eco and Spenser. Also doubles as "Showing off the Research".
    • When Chaka is deciding on her codename ('chaka' means 'leopard'), she mentions some old book by some Belgian guy who said that pound for pound, the leopard is tougher than the lion. Most readers won't know this is supposed to be Congo Kitabu by Jean-Pierre Hallet.
  • Freeman's Mind (a narrative playthrough of Half Life "voiced" by Gordon Freeman himself) does this a lot. Sophisticated jokes about quantum physics pop up from time to time (Gordon is supposed to be a physicist, after all) and the episode where Gordon does nothing but talk like a pirate is full of archaic English and historically accurate nautical terms. Fortunately the show is still very approachable from a lowbrow perspective.
  • Homestar Runner once recites Coulomb's Law, though he mistakes it for the sum of two and two.
    • A Strong Bad email featured a jumbled spam message to which Strong Bad says, "Did the quadratic formula explode?".
    • In "Ballad of The Sneak", the eponymous creature is referred to as "The Strong Bad's Leporello".
  • Of a sort: had a zombie-themed page for Halloween with the text almost entirely in Zamgrh, one of the user-created languages of Urban Dead.
  • Chaos Fighters shows the constituents of various alloys and composites which can be understand better if one has the periodic table of elements.
  • The Nekci Menij Show is fueled by Genius Bonus, particularly in regards to the modern music industry. No bit of Billboard chart knowledge or tidbit about an artist's personal life is too obscure to be joked about.
  • The first impression show Continue? follows these with SMART JOKE vibrating in big red letters appearing onscreen.
  • Mr. Mendo's review of a racially insensitive propaganda cartoon ends with a lengthy soliloquy about how the animators must have been "sulky and dissatisfied". With some slight re-purposing, this is a word-for-word quote from an actual medical journal from over 150 years ago.
  • In Demo Reel, Uncle Yo compares Donnie to Sisyphus. Sisyphus was punished for his lies by having to walk a rock up a steep hill over and over. Donnie has told nobody about his tragic past by this point, and his punishment is self-loathing.
  • The Finnish-made science fiction parody Star Wreck is full of this trope.

  • Though the (alleged) historical incident it refers to is relatively well-known, one suspects that the pun in the title of the Nero Burning ROM software package still went over many people's heads.
  • There's a commercial for an Allentown, Pennsylvania dental clinic in which a little cartoon girl uses a hand mirror to count her own teeth. It's actually an in-joke for dental care professionals: she's too young to have adult teeth yet, yet keeps counting even after reaching 20 — the total number of baby teeth in human kids — indicating she must've lost count somewhere along the line.
  • The former Universal's Back to the Future: The Ride: When Doc Brown goes back in time and meets Albert Einstein, he doesn't look ecstatic or happy like the other scientists that the Doc saw. During the press shoot, there is a man standing next to Einstein; that man is Oppenheimer. The press shot that Doc went to was about the atomic bomb during/after World War II!
  • At the 2014 Paris Motor Show, Lamborghini released the Asterion LPI910-4 hybrid concept car. "Asterion" happens to be the name of another hybrid – the Minotaur of Greek legend. In addition, Lamborghini's emblem is a charging bull, and many of its models names are related to bulls and bullfighting.

    This Very Wiki