"Abby is a thicc girl," is how the Monterey Bay Aquarium started its viral tweet thread about its seemingly large (but definitely not fat) sea otter.
The aquarium had high praise in Internet-speak for the animal, but not everyone found it cute, and some even compared it to "digital blackface.'
It started Tuesday when the Monterey Bay Aquarium Twitter account shared an image of the sea otter, which "shows just how sizable sea otters actually are out of water."
Abby is one of six female sea otters who trains orphaned ones so they can survive in the wild, the aquarium said.
"Seariously tho, Abby is looking fit for one of the toughest jobs in the world," it added.
Abby is a thicc girl— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) December 18, 2018
What an absolute unit
She c h o n k
Look at the size of this lady
OH LAWD SHE COMIN
Another Internetism ! pic.twitter.com/s5fav2gu09
Many people laughed at the show of "#bodypawsitivity" and praised Abby the otter.
"I like big pups and I cannot lie, You other otters can’t deny, When a cute chordate’s got a big ol’ waist and a round rock in your face, I think it’s fun," one user cleverly rhymed.
But others saw the tweets, notably the use of "thicc," as offensive.
"This is shamefully appropriative language. I'm pretty sure we can all have a fun time with #scicomm without digital blackface," a user noted.
Another account, which has since been made private, said, "I’m certain that @MontereyAq didn’t realize that they were basically comparing Black women to animals by using AAVE developed to talk about Black women’s bodies to describe an animal," the Washington Post reported.
"Thicc" is slang for "full-figured body, specifically a big butt and curvy waist. It is both used sexually and humorously," according to Dictionary.com. The term, originally spelled "thick," dates back to the 90s and was used in black culture in reference to women, Dictionary.com says.
In recent years, the intentionally misspelled word has entered mainstream social media spheres and is associated with body positivity.
The other lines in Monterey Bay's tweets also reference Internet terms and memes, such as "chonk" and "oh lawd she comin," often in reference to large cats.
Amid the backlash, the aquarium issued an apology Wednesday.
"It has come to our attention that some of the references in this tweet are problematic and insensitive," the aquarium said.
Hey everyone. It has come to our attention that some of the references in this tweet are problematic and insensitive. We're posting here in the thread so that people who have engaged with this tweet will join us in our learning moment. 1/4— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) December 19, 2018
"In particular, several terms referenced originated from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and specifically reference Black women's bodies. Using them in a sea otter meme without that background makes insinuations we never intended. We need to do better. "
If our tweet alienated you, please know that we are deeply sorry, and that we offer our sincerest apologies. If you follow our feed, we often reference popular memes to talk about the ocean. In this case, the memes used had connotations we were unaware of until now. 2/4— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) December 19, 2018
In particular, several terms referenced originated from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and specifically reference Black women's bodies. Using them in a sea otter meme without that background makes insinuations we never intended. We need to do better. 3/4— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) December 19, 2018
After the apology, some took issue with the Monterey Bay's walking back the thread.
"1) at this point this is meme vernacular. Do you know how many random things I’ve seen described as “thicc” or “a unit?” 2) this is not comparing African Americans to animals. It’s comparing animals to humans, which is a VERY common behavior," one tweeter said.
But others were thankful the aquarium listened to its followers.
"It's OKAY to admit to making a mistake and learning from it, and it's much better than doubling down," another user said.
So how's Abby handling all this?
Turns out she's healthy and average weight. The Los Angeles Times reported the 11-year-old otter weighs 46 pounds. According to the Marine Mammal Center, a conservation and rescue center in California, female sea otters can reach up to 60 pounds. The Aquarium of the Pacific, based in Long Beach, says females weigh 35 to 65 pounds.
That means Abby is just right.
work hard nom harder pic.twitter.com/jUXe5Vo1IM— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) December 18, 2018
In fact, it may have just been the angle of the photo that made Abby look so large.
"That's not blubber or anything," Christine DeAngelo, the aquarium's curator of mammals, told the Los Angeles Times. "It's just the angle of her hips and the way she's rolled. She's one of our most photogenic animals."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: An aquarium apologized for calling its sea otter 'thicc.' And she isn't even overweight