Today, variations of the word can function as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb and an expletive. It can be used to describe everything from cheating spouses to political documents to neighbors who mow their lawn at dawn. Not only can the word be anything you want it to be, it’s equal-opportunity: These days, women use it just as much as men do. Even other cultures incorporate it into their languages as a kind of universal powerful swear word.
“I think this is one of the most important words in the language,” Sheidlower said. “People use it all the time.”