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I read this passage in I heard you paint houses:

The night before my testimonial dinner, Russ and I had a sit-down with Jimmy. We sat at a table at Broadway Eddie's, and Russell Bufalino told Jimmy Hoffa flat-out he should stop running for union president. He told him certain people were very happy with Frank Fitzsimmons, who replaced Jimmy when he went to jail. Nobody at the table said so, but we all knew these certain people were very happy with the big and easy loans they could get out of the Teamsters Pension Fund under the weak-minded Fitz.

I'm not sure what it means here. I have seen 'say so' in dialogues like:

A: Hey You said you were afraid of dogs, right?

B: I didn't say so.

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  • It's just a variant of << We all knew [that?] certain people were very happy with the big and easy loans they could get out of the Teamsters Pension Fund under the weak-minded Fitz ... but nobody at the table said so. / ... but nobody at the table actually voiced this thought. >> Putting the 'Nobody present actually said so (/ as much), [but everyone was thinking ... ]' clause at the front of the sentence can be a smooth style option. Care has to be taken to keep the whole sentence clear. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 8 '20 at 11:47
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So refers to what follows, just like in your own example it refers to what was said earlier. The sentence could be rewritten in the following way without changing its meaning:

Nobody at the table said that these certain people were very happy with the big and easy loans they could get out of the Teamsters Pension Fund under the weak-minded Fitz, but we all knew it.

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"So" in this context has the same meaning as when Captain Picard on Star Trek says, "Make it so,": roughly, thus or, thusly.

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"Said so" is something of an idiom, meaning "said it was so". "So", in this case, is used as a pronoun (or an adverb, according to some authorities) meaning roughly "what is specified elsewhere in this conversation".

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