Every few years I get a text with an environmental element and I have read so many people using the non-existent English word immissions that I begin to wonder if I am going mad.

German has this nice contrasting pair, Emissionen and Immissionen, for pollution emitted and pollution received. I gather that the big problem began when some years ago the Bundesimmissionsschutzgesetz was translated as the Federal Immission Control Act. At all events, according to a colleague of mine who may or may not wish to remain nameless, a translator tried to deal with the problem by introducing the word immission into English, but the meaning never followed.

Actually, some websites use the title Federal Emission Control Act, which is interesting (I discovered this by entering a typo). I have a suggestion to translate it as impact, but I still don’t think it captures the German dichotomy, and of course I don’t have to translate it that often so I have never had to distinguish the two. (Volkswagen: Federal Emissions Protection Act, European Environment Agency, Federal Emission Control Act).

I have it on excellent authority that native speakers of English who talk about emissions from power plants never ever use the word immission.

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