In conversation with my colleague, I said:

C’est vrai que... faire un tel faux pas au premier rendez-vous, ça la fiche mal.

I assume that this expression invariably needs the pronoun "la". Which in itself is quite interesting, since you normally use the pronoun "le" by default to refer back to an idea previously mentioned in the sentence. I have always wondered why "la" is required in this expression.

  • Probably a derivative of "ça l'affiche mal" (that gives publicly a bad image). Additionally, several expressions are using "mettre", "ficher", "foutre" (less to more rude or with a sexual connotation), like "ça met mal (à l'aise)". And a mix of that explains "ça la fiche mal" and also "ça la fout mal" which is sometimes used too... but I was not able to find reliable references to write a complete answer about that.
    – lemon
    Sep 14, 2017 at 14:09
  • I agree with @lemon. I'd even go so far as to suggest that the l is epenthetic. The actual sentence is ça affiche mal (with ça here functioning as something not unlike an impersonal pronoun), but the double a's clash, hence the extra l for some speakers.
    – Circeus
    Sep 15, 2017 at 0:38
  • 5
    Ficher, foutre et mettre ont tous été employés au sens de pénétration sexuelle. Je penche donc plutôt vers le sens de mal faire la chose à une hypothétique femme, à mettre en rapport avec toutes les expressions relatives à la taille du sexe masculin. Ça l'affiche mal serait alors soit un jeu de mot (on trouve ça l'affiche bien) soit la volonté de ne pas faire référence à une expression classée comme vulgaire.
    – jcm69
    Sep 15, 2017 at 18:40
  • @jcm69 Oui, c'est très probablement l'origine du féminin. Le jeu de mot sur ça l'affiche ne tient pas car ça la fout mal a précédé ça la fiche mal. Ficher étant utilisé pour éviter le vulgaire foutre dans cette expression et de nombreuses autres.
    – jlliagre
    Dec 1, 2017 at 9:30
  • @jcm69 En suivant ta logique si on parle bien de pénétration, ficher et foutre devrait faire référence au pénis plutôt qu'à la femme, non? (J'ai pas besoin de vous rappeler quel synonyme est féminin). Mar 4, 2018 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


Je pense que dans cette expression « la » se réfère à la situation.

Faire un tel faux pas au premier rendez-vous ça fiche mal la situation.

  • Oui, mais d'où ça vient ficher/foutre/mettre mal la situation ? Le sens étymologique (voire pour foutre :fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/foutre) n'est-il pas déjà présent dans votre phrase ?
    – jcm69
    Dec 2, 2017 at 22:40

Please put your vulgarity googles on, we're walking into the wastelands here.

"ça la fiche mal" is the tame way of saying "ça la fout mal".

"fout" is the verb "foutre" which basically means the old in-and-out. Like screwing, but not the kind that involves a bolt. It also means ejaculate.

"Fiche" when used as a noun is an electrical socket or plug. But you anglos also have "mating" connectors, so we're even. The verb "ficher" has several different meanings but the one we're concerned about here is "to thrust into, to stick in." You could use it with an arrow, if you're into that sort of thing.

The meaning of "la" in "ça la fout mal" can come from two different sources:

1) "foutre" implies a hypothetical female as jcm69 said.

2) While the French penis is masculine (un pénis) the French slang term for dick is actually a feminine word! (look it up, it's a girl). I believe "la" refers to it. So it means you stuck it in wrong. A bit like when you say "f- me sideways!"

Such a lovely and tastefully graphic expression!

Now, no-one would ever use "ça la fiche mal". Either you're going full crass and you say "ça la fout mal" or you opt for politeness and use something completely different.

"faire un tel faux pas au premier rendez-vous, ça la fiche mal." is a bit ridiculous in this regard. "Faire un tel faux pas" is extremely formal. If you want to go full crass, be my guest, but don't mix crass and formal in the same sentence...

  • Don't mix up "male/female" and "masculine/feminine". When you talk about words you never say "male" or "female". Mar 4, 2018 at 18:44
  • Edited. Thanks for improving my engrish ;)
    – bobflux
    Mar 4, 2018 at 19:10

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