Ann Burlingham writes with a query about this really geeky *Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal* cartoon by Zach Weiner:

The query was about *allowed to sporting events*, with the preposition *to*, rather than the *at* she would have preferred. I myself would have preferred *at* or *into*, but don’t reject *to*.

As usual, the full story is complex.

(On the content of the cartoon: these are three devious ways — using repeating decimals, polar coordinates, and the constants e, π, and i — to express “We’re #1”.)

*Mathematicians are no longer allowed to sporting events* is passive. Let’s convert it to the active counterpart, to see more clearly what’s going on: *no longer allow mathematicians to sporting events*. Now it turns out that the variants with *at* and *into* represent two different argument structures (though these can sometimes be hard to distinguish).

In *no longer allow mathematicians at sporting events*, the PP *at sporting events* is an adverbial of location; compare *no longer allow mathematicians inside/within the stadium ‘*no longer allow mathematicians to be inside/within the stadium’.

But in *no longer allow mathematicians into sporting events*, the PP *into sporting events* is an adverbial of motion, understood as a complement of a motion verb like *come* or *go*; compare *no longer allow mathematicians out of their houses* ‘no longer allow mathematicians to go/come out of their houses’. This is the sense in *allow to sporting events*.

Searching on {“allowed to events”} pulls up a modest number of relevant examples (broader searches would find more), for instance:

Absolutely no single men are allowed to events of any kind. Men must come with their spouse or girlfriend who is already a member. [Lipstick Kiss Club] (link)

You have to dress according to your adopted period, or you are not allowed to events. [Society for Creative Anachronism] (link)

In fact, *OED*2 was already on the case in 1989, with this subentry under **allow**:

… with ellipse of inf.: to permit to go or come *in*, *out*, etc.

with cites for *allow into*, *allow back*, *allow ashore*, *allow out*, and:

1911 *Rep. Labour & Social Conditions Germany* III. 76 The miners who were in the company were allowed to some parts.

The motional structure with *to* is certainly attested, though not, apparently, with great frequency. Of course, any speaker or writer is entitled to their own taste in selecting structures, and in selecting a preposition within a structure.

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May 23, 2011 at 11:59 am |

An alternative “repair” of the caption might be “Mathematicians are not longer

admittedto sporting events”.Also, I interpreted the second sign as power notation (any number to the zeroth power = unity).

May 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm |

On the first point: I wasn’t really recommending a “repair”, only pointing out that different people have different preferences (within the standard language). If you’re aware of these differences — and I suspect many people are not — and you want to avoid the issue, then you could do that by choosing

admitrather thanallow.On the second point, I didn’t think of the power notation because it looked to me like the superscript on the 0 was a degree sign ˚ rather than a zero 0. But your reading makes sense — though it does bring up one of those odd puzzles in mathematics.

Faced with the generalizations that 0^n = 0 and that n^0 = 1, there’s an obvious contradiction for 0^0, which some writers have gotten around by saying that 0^0 is undefined, though others (who seem to have won the day) say that 0^0 = 1, period. The latter writers do this in order to maintain the validity of the Binomial Theorem in its full generality.

Note that there’s no issue of fact here; it’s a matter of mathematical convenience, much like declaring that 1 is not a prime number (even though it’s not evenly divisible by any integer other than itself and 1).