Sarsparilla and sassafras are easily confused words.
The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.
Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.
Sarsparilla (pronounced “sarr-spuh-rihl-uh”) it means a climbing vine with lily-like flowers that grows in the warmer parts of the Americas. Its extract has been used for medicinal purposes. Check out this blogpost, and this one, to learn more.
Sassafras (pronounced “sass-uh-frass”) is a proper noun with multiple associations.
- It can mean a mountain located in the northwest corner of South Carolina, a state in the US South.
- It can mean a deciduous tree. It is recognizable by its leaves; they are mostly three-lobed with two lobed ones nearer the root. This tree flourishes in the US South, but can also be found in Maine, the US Midwest, and southern Canada. This is a flavoring used for root beer in the 1800s, but was later determined to be a carcinogen and capable of causing nerve damage in animals. A lot of today’s root beer uses imitation extracts to create a similar herbal flavor.
- Sassafras is also used in elicit (illegal) drugs like ecstasy.
The following story uses both words correctly:
Sassandra ran a soda fountain and apothecary in Sashoma, Florida. Some kids were at the counter, sipping sarsaparilla and amaretto syrup sodas.
“Is it true Sassafras can make you feel funny?”
“It certainly does, and it’s not that funny. Where did you hear that?”
“Some older kids. They said were going to a dance at an old barn building on Route 27.”
“I need you to stay away from those kids. Some people let partying run their whole life, they accomplish nothing, they can’t support themselves. You don’t want to be those people.”
“We hear you, Miss Sassandra.”