I will not argue it. “Said” is a perfectly good word. And generally preferable to exclaimed, commanded, exhorted, asserted, demanded, etc., because it allows the reader to be a more active participant in the story. You’re not telling them how to read a bit of dialogue. You show them by what’s said and the actions and emotions surrounding it.
May I suggest that “said” may not be needed as often as you think? I love nothing better than a good action tag. My ear and eye thinks this. . .
“And no trading away your sandwich,” said Mom. She handed Lulu a lunch sack.
. . .could be jazzier written this way:
“And no trading away your sandwich.” Mom handed Lulu a lunch sack.
It’s a small thing but when you’re trying to write tight and keep the action charging forward, substituting a speech tag with an action tag just could be the ticket.
I’m sitting here editing a chapter; just cut out two “saids” that came between quotes and action lines I’d already written. THX.