For the past twenty years I've heard people use the adjective "fucking" more often than ever before in the US: in real life, in movies and on TV. Sentences like "You fucking idiot." I've also heard the word being used as an adverb. My question is: how acceptable is it in informal conversation, at work, among friends, talking to a stranger, etc. Does anyone get shocked if you use it these days? Whatever your answer, can you say whether it applies to England and other English speaking countries?
Swearing in a foreign language is very rarely a good idea. As well as the difficulty of judging the level of acceptability of swearing in what will by definition be an unfamiliar social situation, there is the difficulty of judging any particular word (the French con is a very mild insult while the English equivalent is one of the strongest known- in Britain, though not necessarily elsewhere). A slight misjudgment in swearing less than your companions will hardly be noticed, while a misjudgment in the other direction could have dire social consequences. And there are usually witty ways to avoid the necessity; Evelyn Waugh, faced with the need to reproduce soldiers' conversation in a novel that had to get past the censor, wrote 'Their language was shocking. "Shock me", they said "if that shocker gives a shock for any shocker that ever shocked. I'll be shocked if he does."'
How morally acceptable is (it) in informal conversation at work
Only if one works for a f** idiot who swears like a sailor.
Unfortunately quite common in youth, decreasing in frequency with age, gender, and often with educational level.
talking to a stranger
Never, unless one is, well, an idiot.
Depends. One hears it often when people are stressed or intoxicated. In the Emergency Room, we hear it often, and refer the condition as an acute adjective deficiency.
Does anyone get shocked if you use it?
Yes. I am not a prude, but it always shocks me in person. I've become more accustomed to it in movies of certain genres. On television, most cable channels limit the word to once per season, even in Breaking Bad, a fantastic show about a high school chemistry teacher turned meth cooker.
can you say whether it applies to England?
From what I've heard in England, it's just as bad or worse than in the US.
I can only speak for the UK, where this word, and another considered somewhat stronger, are commonly used in normal speech, although in certain company, effort is usually made to restrain the use of these words. The sort of company where you try not to use them might be amongst elderly people, certainly children and when with persons you know to be of a 'polite' mindset and who would find it offensive. Nor would you use these expressions at, say, a formal dinner, so in old fashioned terms, never in 'polite company'. I never use them in front of my now elderly mother-in-law, but otherwise, in most company, mine and most everyone else's speech is peppered with this expression, to the point where it's just a word without any real shock value. Whether you use it at work or not depends on the workplace - in some places it's fine, but possibly not when the boss is around, it varies.
I guess I should add that I live in London - there may be regional differences regarding the use of this word.
As for the word being used in its original sense/meaning, yes, it is used for that as well, over here anyway.