The increasingly widespread use of internet speech has started to see acronyms and abbreviations work their way into our everyday vocabulary.
Television series and commercials have been making fun of shorthand for decades now — remember “IDK my BFF Jill?” — buts its usage, in certain spaces at least, has only become more frequent. With the rise of TikTok, a brand new breed of online speech is spreading as users of the video-sharing app form and normalize their own brand of shorthand. Abbreviations like /SRS and /s can be confusing for the uninitiated, but to an experienced user immediately indicate the tone of a post or comment. Other terms, like BBL, appear to fall into a similar category, but actually indicate something entirely different.
What does BBL mean?
Many of TikTok’s most commonly used abbreviations, like the afforementioned /SRS and /s, are referred to as “tone tags,” or quick additions that can help indicate an upload’s intended inflection or intention, but not all shorthand falls into the “tone tags” umbrella. Some terms, like BBL, are actually just shorthand for a longer set of words.
Back in the day, a quick message with “BBL” almost certainly indicated that a person would “be back later.” This, along with “AFK,” or “away from keyboard,” is still heavily used in some corners of the internet ⏤ like on Twitch or Reddit ⏤ but on TikTok the abbreviation has taken on a meaning of its own. On the popular video-sharing platform, if you stumble upon a post about BBL, it is far more likely taking about a Brazilian butt lift.
The increasingly common surgical procedure was popularized by the Kardashian clan, in particular Kim Kardashian, whose famous backside prompted waves of women to attempt their own BBLs. The procedure involves removing excess fat from the hips, lower abdomen, thighs, or lower back and “strategically” injecting the very same fat into the buttocks to achieve a far more voluptuous behind. According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, a BBL is intended to “help overcome the effects of genetics” and “enhance the curves of your lower body.”
Videos detailing the before and after of a BBL are extremely popular on TikTok as women share the bodies they had before surgery and then unveil their new and improved lower bodies. A BBL is particularly effective in boosting the lower body’s shape because of the process, due to its allowance for the thighs and waist to shrink — when the fat is removed — and the buttocks to grow.
The trend has become immensely popular in recent years, as women flock to the plastic surgery alternative in hopes of achieving their ideal booties. A similar look can be obtained via ardent workout, according to some influencers, but many women choose to shell out the cash for a BBL instead.
A BBL is one of the riskier cosmetic surgeries out there. Its mortality rate is much higher than that of other cosmetic surgeries, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, with an estimated mortality rate of “1:3,000” according to the society’s site.
A task force formed by a range of plastic surgery boards and societies is currently at work on more detailed guidelines in the hopes of increasing safety when performing and recovering from a BBL. In the meantime, women interested in BBLs should thoroughly explore their options and carefully consider the potential risks. As outlined by “board-certified and experienced plastic surgeon” Dr. Kenneth Bermudez, BBLs hold the risk of infection, reabsorbed fat, seroma, scarring, tissue necrosis, bleeding, a loss of sensation, and uneven results. Women who get a BBL are also at an enhanced risk of cardiac arrest.
The risks behind a BBL aren’t high enough to dissuade everyone from taking the surgical route to a round backside, but some women have been deterred following research into the potential side effects. That hasn’t slowed the trend much, however, as TikTokers and users from across the web continue to flock to surgeons in the hopes of achieving the perfect booty.