Having the properties of a TARDIS, of course....

The TV show Doctor Who features a spacecraft called the TARDIS which is bigger on the inside than the outside.

That's an understatement. It is ridiculously huge inside. You could fit the entire population of Manhattan in there and have scads of room left. No one knows just how big it is. The Doctor has gotten lost for years at a time in there, and he frequently tells his travelling companions to not stray too far into the labyrinthine bowels of the ship. It has brickwork in some parts - it's that big it has outdated building methods in it and no one noticed!

All that, and the outer dimensions are roughly that of a phone booth.

This captured the imagination of people who watched the show, people who didn't watch the show, people who liked it and also people who didn't (even if they hate it they still remember the TARDIS, though often not fondly). People use the TARDIS as a comparison when decribing the illusion of something being bigger on the inside than the outside:

The teller watched in amazement as the old biddy kept rummaging in her purse. She started piling things on the counter as she looked for her drivers licence. The pile grew quickly, with bottles of pills, kitchen utensils and even a small gilt replica of the Eiffel Tower being produced. There seemed to be no limit to the range of things she kept stowed away in the TARDIS-like handbag.

Or perhaps something scarier....

Frank backed away in horror as the clowns came forward. More and more midget clowns were piling out of the TARDIS-like clown car, there was no end to the flop-shoed tide of capering buffoons with their honking horns and squirting flowers, soon the circus tent would fill up and he would be drowned in an endless sea of clowns!

The idea of the TARDIS and it's defiance of normal physical properties is quite nifty - and it's possible to find people using the reference without any explanation. I've seen it in a proper newspaper article without any definition, which is quite strange as the show hasn't been on TV here for over 6 years.

Of course you can also use the phrase to describe something materializing out of thin air (or dissapearing into it). You can also say Cheshire Cat-like, however the enigmatic cat is something that fades away piece by piece - and we usually think of the cat as fading away into nothing (vanishing quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remains some time after the rest of it has gone). The TARDIS is something people identify as turning up out of nowhere unexpectedly, so it sort of fits better - certainly for inanimate objects.

People might also say TARDIS-like when describing something that is a blue box with glass panels in the doors and a lamp on top, but that's really just something that looks like an English Police Box.

Police Boxes are not TARDIS-like, as they do not:

  • Travel in time and space
  • Dematerialise
  • Have internal dimensions far in excess of the external ones
  • Have semi-sentient computers controling them
  • Contain Time Lords
Most TARDISes are not Police Box-like, as they do not:
  • Always keep the same appearance
  • Stay in one place
  • Obey the laws of physics
  • Have a telephone inside
  • Contain policemen
There, now you know what all those people from the UK are talking about when they mention the TARDIS-like ornament storage capacity of their grandmother's china cupboard!
That clown bit has me too scared to sleep!

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