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A woman wrote to me the other day in response to my article on the f-word. She wrote: "I think most of the seemingly perplexing uses of fuck can be explained in this way: Fuck is an intensifier. It delivers a thought in bold italics, or all caps, as a howl of disaffection or annoyance. It also conveys full approval in a hip way. Other languages have intensifiers, not necessarily four-letter ones."

I think she's right. The f-word serves as an intensifier and sometimes quite effectively. It's the verbal equivalent of the exclamation point in writing.

Problem is, we're hearing a lot of exclamation points these days, and, as every writer knows, heavy use of the exclamation point is the tool of only the crudest writers.