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In old books, people often use the spelling "to-day" instead of "today". When did the change happen? Also, when people wrote "to-day", did they feel, when pronouncing the word, that it contained two words, rather than a single concept?

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1  
I imagine they felt exactly as I feel when pronouncing "e-mail" as opposed to "email". (Not especially different.) – Billy Sep 10 '12 at 16:41
    
Thanks, that's a very nice comparison. – Yuji Sep 11 '12 at 2:14
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Five minutes of research brings...

today
O.E. todæge, to dæge "on (the) day," from to "at, on" (see to) + dæge, dative of dæg "day" (see day). Generally written as two words until 16c., after which it usually was written to-day until early 20c.

Similar constructions exist in other Germanic languages (cf. Du. van daag "from-day," Dan., Swed. i dag "in day"). Ger. heute is from O.H.G. hiutu, from P.Gmc. hiu tagu "on (this) day," with first element from PIE pronomial stem ki-, represented by L. cis "on this side."

The same applies to tomorrow and tonight, at least according to this dictionary.

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2  
Yes, but how did people feel when pronouncing the word(s)? – jwpat7 Sep 10 '12 at 14:03
6  
They felt a warm thrill of confusion, followed by a space-cadet glow. – Roaring Fish Sep 10 '12 at 14:38
    
That's to-boldly-day. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 10 '12 at 15:40

Just came across this as I was watching an old film and saw "to-day" used in a newspaper on the screen. Got curious and wound up here. Since language is a very fluid, constantly evolving thing, my belief is that the use of a hyphen simply became unnecessary in daily use, just as slang and jargon change from generation to generation,spelling of terms changes over time. People today have begun to say (incorrectly) "couple dollars" instead of "couple OF dollars." It makes me kind of crazy. They don't know correct English usage. I'm now 71 and am beginning to see subtle changes in common speech. It's a funny feeling and doesn't feel like progress to me, just a very blatant lack of good education in our country.

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Hmm... Not a bad input, and I agree with you on the "couple dollars" thing. However, I think (unfortunately) it is usual for Americans to drop the "of" in those sorts of phrases. And as a matter of fact, I learnt just the other day that Americans don't use the word "fortnight"! – Dog Lover Jun 3 at 0:23

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