Ralph Keyes of Literary Hub discusses Mailer’s infamous fug and factoid in “When in Need of the Right Word, Great Writers Simply Make Them Up” and gets it right. Keyes writes:
Anticipating censorship, Mailer used the word fug in lieu of “fuck” several hundred times in his manuscript. This coinage attracted lots of attention, due partly to a popular anecdote in which the actress Tallulah Bankhead said when meeting Mailer, “So you’re the author who doesn’t know how to spell ‘fuck,’” (Bankhead’s biographer and Mailer himself denied that this ever happened. Mailer—who insisted that what Bankhead actually said when greeting him was “Hello”—thought the racier version, which appeared in an April 1950 column called “Edith Gwynn’s Hollywood,” originated with her press agent.) For some time after The Naked and the Dead’s publication, fug was our preferred euphemism for fuck, before giving way to “frig,” “frick,” and “freak” (friggin’, frickin’, freakin’).