Can you guess the country where Adolf Hitler Marak is running for office (and has a shot)?

February 19, 2013

A woman registers to vote in Ribhai district of Meghalaya state. (EPA/STR)

We won't leave you in suspense: it's India. More specifically, the northeastern province of Meghalaya.

Though naming your son Adolf Hitler might be considered a strident political gesture just about everywhere else, in Meghalaya it seems to be in line with regional custom. Meghalaya, which means "abode of clouds," is famous for the practice of naming children after just about any familiar noun, from historical figures to everyday household objects. (Stigmas against Naziism and Adolf Hitler aren't as strong in India as elsewhere, in part because the swastika is an ancient symbol there, as Olga Khazan explained.)

Adolf Hitler Marak, who previously held office but lost in 2003, is now running again for the state assembly, according to an Al Jazeera story about the plethora of oddly named officials in Meghalaya.

"I dont think there is any detailed explanation for these funny names. But the practice of giving funny names to children have been around for quite some time," a Meghalaya-based social scientist named Joshua Thomas told Al Jazeera. "My wife is a doctor and she has found parents naming children Anasthesia just because that was needed during the delivery."

Here's a partial list of other Meghalayans who have held or run for political office, according to the story:

• Frankenstein Momin
• Field Marshal Mawphniang
• Wonderlyne Lapang
• Billykid Sangma
• Predecessor Rumnong
• Fairly Bert Kharrngi
• Anvil Lyngdoh
• Methodius Dkhar
• Process Sawkmie
• Bomber Singh Hyniewta
• Hopingstone Masharing
• Hilarious Dkhar and Hilarious Pohchen (no relation)
• Zenith Sangma
• Boston Marak
• Coming One Ymbon

The Al Jazeera story suggests the region's naming conventions got started because the people there "love to laugh, even at themselves, because they believe laughing a lot will keep them hale and hearty and help them live long." Fair enough, although this is true of many cultures. It's worth wondering if the practice is not meant as a joke at all, but perhaps simply reflects a different way of thinking about names. Who can say that the way we name children makes any more or less sense?

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Max Fisher | February 19, 2013