Possessives and Attributives

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.

A. We seem to be having a run on questions that turn on the issue of literal word usage. But let’s think about it. If a table can’t “have” legs, where does this leave us? True, the table is probably not conscious that it possesses legs, but then does that mean it doesn’t truly possess them? If a table possesses legs in the forest, where there’s no one to see them . . . oh, wait—that’s another riddle. Seriously, I’d love to know who makes up these rules, seemingly just to drive everyone crazy. Don’t worry—your vehicle can have speed, and there’s no difference between the speed of the vehicle and the vehicle’s speed (or “vehicle speed,” if you prefer to avoid the controversy).