A US aquarium apologised for a 'problematic and insensitive' tweet calling one of its otters 'thicc'

BlueBarronPhoto / ShutterstockWhen tweets go wrong.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium apologised after tweeting about an overweight otter.
  • Someone pointed out the language was offensive.
  • The aquarium described Abby the otter as “thicc,” which is a term that originated in African-American slang to describe a curvy body shape.
  • The aquarium’s account then turned the tweet into a “learning moment.”

A tweet written to celebrate the plus-size body type of an otter backfired when someone pointed out some of the language in the tweet appropriated black culture.

Monterey Bay Aquarium on their Twitter account called Abby the otter a “thicc girl” and a “c h o n k” and used the phrase “OH LAWD SHE COMIN,” which has been popularised as a meme along with “chonk” to describe overweight cats.

In a follow-up tweet, the account said Abby’s job is raising stranded sea otter pups – hence her size.

“She’s one of 6 resident females that train orphaned otters in the necessary skills to survive back in the wild,” it read. “There’s a lot more to this sea otter than meets the eye!”

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein said the tweet was offensive because the word “thicc” originated in African-American slang to describe a curvy body shape.

“It contributes to a hostile environment for Black people, including Black scientists,” she wrote on Twitter. “I’m certain that @MontereyAq didn’t realise that they were basically comparing Black women to animals by using AAVE [African-American Vernacular English] developed to talk about Black women’s bodies to describe an animal. But that’s pretty bad.”


Some people disagreed, saying, “it’s a f—ing otter,” and, “it’s just a meme.”

The aquarium apologised 24 hours later, saying, “It has come to our attention that some of the references in this tweet are problematic and insensitive.” They posted the “learning moment” in the initial thread.

“If our tweet alienated you, please know that we are deeply sorry, and that we offer our sincerest apologies,” the tweet read. “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.”

Large animals are often met with glee online – Knickers the cow, for example, was described in a similar way last month for being rather a lot larger than all the other cows in his field – so it’s unsurprising that Monterey Bay Aquarium jumped on the bandwagon. Although they didn’t get it quite right this time, everyone reading the thread probably learned something they didn’t know before – it just wasn’t quite what they expected.

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