The name carbonara sauce was first attested in 1950 in the Italian newspaper La Stampa, in reference to a Roman dish that many American soldiers enjoyed. Soon thereafter, it was written about in English-language cookbooks, and usage of the term exploded in the 1960s and beyond. In Italian, carbonara literally means "in the manner of coal miners", and, just as for marinara, there are several attempts to explain this. There's a theory that it's a traditional dish of coal miners, but the Oxford English Dictionary dismisses that as implausible. It also might be that the flecks of black pepper in the meal were thought to resemble coal flecks, that it was named after the Carbonara restaurant in Rome (this seems most widely accepted), or that it's a tribute to a secret revolutionary society called the Carbonari. Basically, nobody's quite certain about the origin, but all the possibilities are exciting.
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.