In programming, there are these so-called "esoteric programming languages" like "LOLCODE" or "Shakespeare," which really have pretty much zero usefulness. They are just kind of a novelty, or if a computer science professor is feeling like being particularly obnoxious he can choose it as the language for one of his assignments.

I was wondering if there is anything similar for citation styles. Citation styles are a "language" of sorts, and in principle you could have the analog of "LOLCODE" for making citations. I have never heard of such a thing, and I was considering inventing one---you know, something for a Humanities professor to require if they are feeling like being particularly obnoxious---but I wanted to make sure that such a thing didn't already exist.

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    I'd say, any of the traditional styles that includes a requirement for listing the city a publisher is located in. In our digital and globalized society, how is it even meaningful to talk about "the" location of a major international publishing house?
    – jakebeal
    Jan 6 '15 at 7:01
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    That at least used to have a legitimate reason (or so I've heard): that printings of the same book in different cities wouldn't necessarily be the same, so you had to know which city the book came from to make sense of a reference. Of course this hasn't been a valid reason for a very long time.
    – David Z
    Jan 6 '15 at 7:02
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    @jakebeal see this question on using city of publication in citation
    – ff524
    Jan 6 '15 at 7:09
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    If you want to troll, you can do this well enough with any given style. Just cite a 600-page textbook without giving any section or page numbers, or cite a published version with a page number coming from the arXiv preprint. Also "and references therein" :) Jan 6 '15 at 11:38

May I humbly suggest footnote labyrinths?

enter image description here

Alt text: Every time you read this mouseover, toggle between interpreting nested footnotes as footnotes on footnotes and interpreting them as exponents (minus one, modulo 6, plus 1).


Off the top of my head, an esoteric citation style would be one that uses exclusively doi and/or ISBN numbers instead of author-year or similar styles ---e.g., "as doi:16.1244/0979e.98 says in his reply to 12-9809-090-09..."

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    In a similar vein, academic books should have (author, year) inline citations. Numeric inline citations are bearable for a 10 page academic paper -- they are incredibly annoying for a 200 page book.
    – Andy W
    Jan 6 '15 at 12:50
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    Don't forget to make them non-clickable and non-copypastable in your pdf file, for addded trolling value. Jan 6 '15 at 13:22
  • @AndyW: Your mileage may vary. I find it a lot more convenient to remember a three or four digit number for the short period of time that I need to open the appendix section than an arbitrary name and a year. The same goes for finding the respective reference in a bibliography spanning many pages at the end of a book. Mar 10 '17 at 8:33

The syntax of .bst files (bibtex style files) is obscure enough to be borderline to an esoteric programming language, in my opinion. Example here.

(And don't get me started on TeX error messages...)

  • Your own .bst for pretty documents? It's not for the faint of heart. It's just not. Jan 6 '15 at 13:56
  • Ah BAFLL...happy memories :) Aug 4 '16 at 18:07

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