Possessives and Attributives

Q. I have a sports-related question resulting from a recent conversation with a friend during a baseball game. I maintain that the proper term for that administrative unit overseeing sports at a college or university should be “Athletics Department,” but my friend contended that it is “Athletic Department.” Who’s right?

Q. I’m trying to find a definitive answer to whether an inanimate object can take the possessive form. I have been told that an object cannot possess something, so the ’s form should not be used. Instead of “the vehicle’s speed,” it should be “the speed of the vehicle.” I understand the rule, but can’t find anything here to support it.

Q. In CMOS 6.28, the following example is used to illustrate an appositive with a comma: “Ursula’s son, Clifford, had been a student of Norman Maclean’s.” I know that the usage displayed in the last three words of the sentence has become mainstream, but surely it has not become correct?

Q. What are the rules surrounding the use of fiction and nonfiction and fictional and nonfictional? I know the former are nouns and the latter adjectives, but can you say “a fiction passage”? I suspect not—though I hear it all the time.

Q. When referring to the house belonging to my wife and me, I have trouble deciding between “Libby and my house” or “Libby’s and my house.” Which is correct?

Q. Is there an acceptable way to form the possessive of words such as Macy’s and Sotheby’s? Sometimes rewording to avoid the possessive results in less felicitous writing.

Q. I am proofing a training manual. It’s labeled “Participant’s Manual.” Shouldn’t it be “Participants’ Manual”? Thanks.

Q. The following sentences were written by a student. “The three of us went to the Rangers’ hockey game. The leprechaun is the Celtics’ mascot.” Are apostrophes needed or do the sentences contain attributive nouns?

Q. The information posted on the Possessives and Attributives web page comes close to answering my question, but I would appreciate a more detailed explanation: Did we have dinner at the Smiths or at the Smiths’? I am tempted to omit the apostrophe if I consider the preposition at equivalent to German bei + dative plural, French chez, Italian da, etc. But if “at the Smiths’” is shorthand for “at the Smiths’ house,” perhaps I need an apostrophe. Is Smiths functioning as a genitive or an attributive adjective? What if, instead of Smiths, I refer to a group of people (residents, occupants) by some other word, e.g., We had dinner at the neighbors, Canadians, etc.?

Q. A friend and I were looking at a poster that read “guys apartment.” I believe it should read “guys’ apartment.” She claims that it should read “guys’s apartment” and that the CMOS specifically gives the example of “guys’s” to make “guys” possessive. I looked through every section on possessives and did not find the word “guys’s” or any rule that would make this correct. Some people say “you guys’s apartment”—did I overlook the word “guys’s” as used in the attributive position? (I don’t think I did.)