Re: Your opinions again, please

Subject: Re: Your opinions again, please
From: "Segal, Betty S." <bss3 -at- PHPMTS1 -dot- EM -dot- CDC -dot- GOV>
Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 10:44:00 EST

<In reply to David H. Citron who wrote ". . . an editor
<I once worked with at IBM . . . would not allow possessives in any
<documentation. He contended that that would be imputing human qualities to
<inamimate objects.

's is used to show the genitive case in English; possession is just one
genitive function. It is okay to use it with inanimate objects. See Evans and
Evans' _A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage_, where they say
(p. 197-198):

"Textbooks sometimes say that the only living function of the genitive is to
represent ownership, and that when it is used for inanimate things . . . a
personification is implied. But no ownership is intended in -one's elders, a
man's murderer, our son's school,_ and no personification in _tomorrow's
breakfast, the play's success, the earth's surface, the sun's heat, the
nation's economy._ It is a serious mistake to dismiss the genitive as the
"possessive" case, because more than half the time it represents some other
relation. . . .
"1. _Classifying or descriptive genitive._ This is the basic genitive
function, seen in _the room's furnishings, the airplane's speed, the
building's foundations._ . . . When there is no reason for emphasizing the
descriptive word, the simple uninflected form is preferred, and when there is
reason, the _of_-phrase does it better."

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