California aquarium apologises over tweet about 'thicc' otter

Abby the otter.
Abby the otter. Photo credit: Twitter/ Monterey Bay Aquarium

A California aquarium has apologised after it found itself in hot water for using meme language in a tweet describing an otter.

"Abby is a thicc girl. What an absolute unit. She chonk. Look at the size of this lady. OH LAWD SHE COMIN. Another Internetism!" the Monterey Bay Aquarium said in a tweet which accompanied a photo of a chunky otter.

A lot of social media users found the language used to describe Abby funny, but some replies pointed out it had used 'African-American Vernacular English' (AAVE) to describe the otter.

'Thicc' has been criticised in the past as an African-American term appropriated into the internet's meme culture. The word initially appeared in hip hop boards in the early 2000s before circulating African American communities and making its way to Twitter in 2009, according to internet news and culture site The Daily Dot.

It went mainstream in 2015, the year the first entry for the term was uploaded to Urban Dictionary, which defined it as meaning a "black female who's curve resemble one of an hour glass plus even more booty than a regular hoe [sic]".

"Once again, a phrase that is culturally specific to Black communities has made its way into the mainstream," the Daily Dot said in 2015.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium apologised for its use of the word 'thicc' and said it would try and avoid using such phrases in future.

"Our mission is to inspire conservation of the ocean, and we're thankful for your support as we try to advance that mission on social media.

"We're also thankful for those of you out there pointing out our blind spots and how we can improve. Thanks everyone."

But not everyone was pleased, some Twitter users blasting the aquarium for giving in to the critics.

"Don't apologise for this one bit.  If we keep acting like this, we'll eventually live in a bubble wrapped world because people can't take a harmless joke," one person said.

"You referenced memes. Stop apologising," another said.

One person in the replies appreciated the aquarium's apology though.

"To all of the (mainly White) people who aren't offended, you not being offended is not the measure of non-offense. The tweet was absolutely insensitive, and I appreciate the desire to do better."