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I encountered this while reading Astérix. The sentence is:

La première victoire revient incontestablement à Cloridric; celui-ci, ayant surpris Téléféric par un mouvement tournant, bing ! ne le lui envoie pas dire et lui inflige une cuisante défaite."

Given my understanding of envoyer dire as to send a message, I translate this by:

The first victory was decisively taken by Cloridric; he, having surprised Téléféric with a turning movement-- bam! -- does not send him a message and inflicts a burning defeat.

That obviously makes no sense, therefore I am wrong.

Also, btw, are Cloridric and Téléféric jeux-de-mots ? Many of the Gothic names are, but I don't see it for those two.

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    Almost all the names in Astérix are wordplays: Astérix and Obélix first (from asterisk and obelisk), Cétautomatix ("c'est automatique"), Abraracourcix ("à bras raccourcis"), Assurancetourix ("assurance tous risques"), Babaorum ("Baba au rhum"), and so on. – SteffX Mar 17 '17 at 16:02
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TLFi offers at envoyer (and it's the only reference to envoyer dire I could find in TLFi):

Loc. fam. Il ne le lui a pas envoyé dire = Il le lui a dit sans intermédiaire et sans détours.

I had to look it up, I would have stumbled here too. I could not have told directly what it meant. In this context though, it probably means that Cloridric was "direct" (by punching Téléféric).

Cloridric is a play on words, with (acide) chlorhydrique.

Téléféric is for téléphérique which is the French word for aerial tramway.

  • Ahhhh that does make perfect sense. By the way are you not a native speaker? – temporary_user_name Mar 17 '17 at 4:43
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    I am a native speaker (... of French). But this expression is IMHO not common in French today. – Frank Mar 17 '17 at 4:58
  • You can find another acide chlorhydrique play on words in the album "Astérix légionnaire" with a spy named Acidcloridrix – le_daim Mar 17 '17 at 9:11
  • Frank, I feel like I must have heard this expression a few times a month throughout my life. Not super common, but not overly exotic either. – Montée de lait Mar 17 '17 at 22:08
  • A few times a month? In France? – Frank Mar 17 '17 at 22:11
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The idiomatic construction "ne pas envoyer dire" means "to be direct with someone", because "envoyer dire" connotes that you're sending an intermediary to go tell something to the person you want to say something to.

This kind of figure of speech is called in French a litote, and consists of producing emphasis by the use of a double negation, or negating the opposite of what we mean to emphasize.

Other, maybe slightly more common examples of idioms based on the litote pattern include:

  • Ne pas y aller avec le dos de la cuiller (= really going at it)

  • Ne pas y aller de main morte (= same)

  • Ne pas tourner autour du pot (= not beating around the bush)

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    Let's not forget the wonderful (yet totally unrecommendable) perronisme: Ne pas y aller avec le dos de la main morte. – Montée de lait Mar 19 '17 at 21:09

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