TV Times, July, 1985.
Come on, Corrie genius, Can you give me a rough estimate of how many times Mavis Riley/Wilton said "I don't really know!"
Well, Fay, I hate to disappoint you, but I have over a thousand episodes of Coronation Street, most of them consecutive ones, and many of them featuring Mavis from her early years to her marriage to Derek and beyond. And she doesn't say "I don't really know!" at all.
I have only one episode in which she does say it, and then not in a dithering manner, from the late 1980s.
The catchphrase did not actually belong to the real Mavis character. It originated in the 1980s when Les Dennis and Dustin Gee teamed up for a brilliant series of Mavis and Vera Duckworth skits.
And Les's Mavis was often heard to squawk: "I don't really know!"
Les and Dustin worked together on Russ Abbot's Madhouse, a highly popular show which began in 1980.
In an early series of the show, a comedy sequence involving Russ selling sketches from a barrow went pear shaped, and so Les's Mavis met Dustin's Vera:
"We had to pop up from behind the barrow doing particular impressions, but we got the sequence a bit wrong," explained Dustin Gee in 1985. "Russ had already got Mavis Riley beside him and he said: 'And what am I bid for a Bet Lynch?' I said, 'You can't have a Bet Lynch, but here's a Vera Duckworth,' because I was halfway dressed as Vera. I appeared and began talking to 'Mavis' in character. After that, we began to appear more regularly, eventually on Live From Her Majesty's as well as The Royal Variety Show."
The catchphrase took off, and is now, of course, attributed to Thelma Barlow's original Mavis, although it actually originated with Les Dennis's version!
Read our main post on Les Dennis and Dustin Gee here.