After watching all those English cop shows through the decades I figured I had rhyming slang down pat. Apples and pears? - stairs, right? Butcher's hook? - look. Pork pies, lies?
I had vaguely wondered if there was any new rhyming slang going on, so I googled and discovered something about sleeping in your Barack Obamas (pyjamas ... or 'pajamas', if you're American).
But blow me down with a feather.... For what feels like forever I have been saying something like "Oh, this old shirt? I've had it for donkeys' years". I think I even said it in a past blog.
Imagine my embarrassment to discover that the cockney phrase should be "donkey's ears" and means "years".
Ever since i can remember, my kiwi-born mum used this particular slang but my childish mind must have picked it up differently. Right context, wrong words.
I truly love you, Mum, but why-oh-why couldn't you have enunciated more clearly? It's horrifying to think what else my young brain picked up from you and to this day - donkey's ears later - I am still saying wrong!
PS: a reprieve, hallelujah!! A friend has just told me that "donkey's ears" has been traced back to 1915, but that now it's become more common to say- wait for it! - "donkeys' years".