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If they are translated literally it gives "today is" and "tonight is".

Is it some sentence that got shortened ?

(Also not sure how to classify this question so forgive me if I used the wrong tags...)

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By the way, doesn't translate to "is". It marks the topic of a sentence. Please see your textbook for details! –  snailboat Apr 22 '13 at 11:58
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Everything I learned to write only in kana in Japanese schools, members here want to write in kanji -- できる、フケ、こんにちは、こんばんは, etc. –  Tokyo Nagoya Mar 31 at 22:08
    
@TokyoNagoya: It does seem like that but it isn't really "members want to", just a function of inevitable learner's ignorance and technology. Once a sentence is typed and converted, the OS chooses the characters. A beginner may not have learnt them but keeps them on the misunderstanding that "Kanji is king" and the PC knows best. I have never seen this point covered in text books - they introduce the characters in the correct kana etc and expect the student to follow. (cont'd) –  Tim Apr 1 at 4:56
    
@TokyoNagoya: (cont'd) Unfortunately introductory texts deliberately overuse kana so students can't appreciate what is simplified/what is correct. (I also hear that for students from "Kanji-countries" it is easier to use kanji and have to admit that it is easy to pick up bad habits, such as 出来る, that don't get pointed out if what was said is understood.) –  Tim Apr 1 at 5:00
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1 Answer

up vote 11 down vote accepted

They do appear to be shortenings, but perhaps not of any particular wording. 大辞林 says they're short for sentences like the following:

In each case, 大辞林 marks the sentence in quotes with など, implying it doesn't necessarily come from those sentences specifically, but sentences such as the above. The Iwanami Kokugo Jiten does the same thing; when I looked up these words, I found the following examples in 「」 quotes:

  • こんにちは is short for sentences such as 「今日はよいお天気です」
  • こんばんは is short for sentences such as 「今晩はお寒うございます」

In each case, the dictionary marks the sentences with など to illustrate that they're the sorts of sentences that could complete こんにちは or こんばんは, not that those specific words are implied by the greetings.

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While not specifically asked by Tama, I believe the same is also true of おはようございます (though it eludes me to what the original sentence was) –  Mark Hosang Apr 24 '13 at 4:10
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@MarkHosang I don't know the answer to that, but this post by Kouji Ueshiba on sci.lang.japan is pretty interesting. –  snailboat Apr 24 '13 at 9:50
    
@MarkHosang: My professor back in college explained that it used to be based on something to the effect of "お寒【さむ】でございます". I view that explanation with suspicion, however a recent discussion on the 〜う forms of adjectives indicates to me it's probably in actuality a rather regular, if archaic and overly formal, way of saying "早いです": お早【はよ】うございます japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/765~うございます-keigo-い-adjectives –  Kaji Mar 31 at 15:33
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@Kaji I don't think anyone thinks it's from *お早でございます. I think the latter is what some people assume, but it may or may not be the case. (Did you read the post linked above by Kouji Ueshiba?) –  snailboat Mar 31 at 16:17
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