In Other Words

A Contextualized Dictionary to Problematize Otherness

snitch

by Class 1B
This word has been published: 2023-06-07 09:25:12

Abstract:

La parola inglese snitch, tradotta come 'spia', 'spione', 'informatore', è un termine slang americano usato molto frequentemente nel gergo giovanile. Si usa in numerose e diverse situazioni, dall'ironia a contesti più seri. Viene citato spesso nelle canzoni rap e trap con intento dispregiativo e discriminatorio nei confronti di un singolo individuo. Negli ambiti criminali, questo vocabolo indica qualcuno che riferisce delle informazioni segrete ad una qualsiasi autorità, solitamente al fine di ricevere un compenso personale [1]. Anche nelle situazioni meno esposte, come nella vita di tutti i giorni, viene definito 'snitch' l’individuo che tradisce la fiducia del suo gruppo. Riprendendo il linguaggio usato nei testi rap, molti ragazzi al giorno d’oggi assumono comportamenti e stili propri di 'baby gang'. Nel contesto di un gruppo, questi usano la parola 'snitch' in modo prevalentemente aggressivo così da far sentire esclusa la cosiddetta 'spia del gruppo'.  Se si ribaltano i punti di vista, uno 'snitch' può avere valide ragioni e buone intenzioni  verso qualcun altro, per esempio quando riporta ad un adulto di fiducia una situazione problematica che riguarda un minore.

The English word snitch, meaning 'spy', 'informer', is an American slang word frequently used among young people. In British English, 'a/to grass' are used with the same meaning. Snitch is used in various situations, from irony to more serious contexts.  It is often mentioned in rap songs with a derogatory and discriminatory tone against an individual.

In criminal contexts this word indicates someone who reports secret information to any authority, usually in order to receive personal compensation.

Even in less exposed situations, such as in everyday life, the individual who betrays the trust of his/her group is defined as a 'snitch'.

If the points of view are reversed, a 'snitch' may have good intentions and reasons towards someone else, for example when s/he reports a problem involving a minor to a trusted adult.

 

Etymology:

Meaning: spy/snitch/informer

Origins: of obscure origin, the term probably derives from an underworld slang meaning 'nose' which apparently develops from an earlier meaning of 'hit on the nose', in turn probably from a Germanic noun [2].

It could also derive from the Middle English 'trap'. It is also linked to the word snake, something slimy and creeping [3].

Nowadays, the term is used in American-English slang as 'to snitch on', i.e. 'to report a crime' and means 'to be a spy', 'an infamous': those who talk to the guards or those who decide to contact the authorities by collaborating and denouncing someone are identified as spy [4].

Having a 'snitch' among a group means dealing with someone who can't be trusted because as soon as s/he turns around s/he tells all the secrets to others. In short, s/he is a spy: a person who talks about someone's else business with others, and/or a person who tells more or less serious things that happened within the gangs to an adult.

 

Cultural specificity:

To examine the cultural specificy of the use of the term snitch, we have examined Italian and American English rap/trap songs.

Dark Polo Gang
https://www.exclusivemagazine.it/2020/11/16/quale-futuro-per-la-dark-polo-gang/

 

 

https://www.soldoutservice.com/thasup-ha-preparato-una-hit-con-sfera-ebbasta-e-lazza/

Italian rap/trap songs                                                      

NO SNITCH FREESTYLE (Tedua - 2017)

no snitch, non farlo ancora, non bisticci con noi/sul beet il pit è sciolto/minaccia il pitbull è libero” [no snitch, don’t do it again, don’t mess it up with us/ on the beet the pitbull is free]

https://youtu.be/L7RKvLvJxP8    

 

BASSOTTO (Dark Polo Gang - 2019)

mio fratello ti fa un buco, se provi a farmi un torto” [my brother blows you a hole if you do me wrong]

https://youtu.be/Hv4GCqUgXUE

 

SNITCH E IMPICCI (FSK, Drefgold - 2020)

non voglio snitch nel gang” [I don’t want snitch in the gang]

https://youtu.be/9NSf6dfnOCw

 

S!R! (Sfera, Lazza, Thasup- 2022)

vorrei fare fuori gli snitch” [I would like to get rid of the snitch]

https://youtu.be/yscyWJziBMc

 

American English rap/trap songs

SNITCH (Obie Tricie FT. Akon - 2006)

“Just do whatever you do, Snitch,
Who decide he’s a member once 
he got pinched”

https://youtu.be/isaXqowHZuU

 

SNITCH (Reyn Hartley - 2018)

“Six foot ditch for my snitch”

https://youtu.be/mrAbwRSUQ5E

 

STOP SNITCHING (YG - 2019)

“Everybody went down’ cause 
you snitched”

https://youtu.be/OUXrUIiQWaU

 

NO SNITCHING 
(Lil Mabu, Dusty Locane - 2022)

“I could never snitch, that’s on my kids”

https://youtu.be/ZzyPZKO46ow

 

Amazon.com: Snitch : Obie Trice & Akon: Digital Music

 

 

Rapper YG
https://www.pxfuel.com/en/desktop-wallpaper-qucky

 

We can notice that both in the Italian and in the English texts the word 'snitch' has a negative connotation and meaning. The American songs display a much heavier tone, a fact which is linked to the socio-cultural context of the American gangs. Due to a different urban setting, in Italy the word 'snitch' is adopted in a lighter tone, and the texts often make use of irony and levity.

And this is a rap written and sung by some of us:

Il cappio

Pensavo di potermi fidare

Ma la confidenza data fa male

Ho fatto male a fare del bene 

Mi hai ripagato con delle lame 

Ti chiamavo fratello 

se eri con me 

Ora non ti chiamo 

ti chiedi perché 

Spesso è difficile fare delle scelte 

Tu hai fatto la tua 

ma non c'è vabbé

Non c'è scusa che tenga 

Se sei infame 

rimane nel sangue 

Tu ti nascondi dietro una tenda 

ma dovresti farlo dietro una lapide 

I cazzi miei poco li racconto 

Lo vedi non rido, non cambio più il volto
 

Non faccio un sorriso 

Da quanto non ricordo 

Ora tu meriti un cappio al collo 

E non lo dico per esser cattivo 

Ma questo ti meriti se mi hai ferito 

Nessuno vicino, figurati amico 

O forse per te ero un burattino? 

Burattino marionetta 

Mi spiace per ciò che e successo 

Per me eri come un fratello 

Ma ora che sei infame sei meno di zero!
 

 

Testo di:

Mattia C., Lorenzo G, Elena J., Zoe M. S.

 

Noose

I thought I could trust you

but the confidence given can hurt

It was a mistake doing good thing

‘cause you repaid me only with blades

I called you bro

if you were with me

now I don’t call you 

and you ask why

Often it is hard choosing 

you made your choice 

but there’s no maybe

There’s no place for excuses

if you’re snitch 

it will remain in the blood

You hide yourself behind a curtain 

but you should do it behind a tombstone

My f***ing secrets, I don’t tell much of them

Can’t you see I’m not laughing, don’t change face anymore

I’m not smiling any longer

since when I can’t remember

Now you deserve a noose at your neck

and I’m not saying this for being bad

but you deserve this ‘cause you hurt me 

No one close, imagine a friend

or maybe for you I was only a puppet?

puppet, puppet

I’m sorry for what happened

for me you were like a brother

but now that you snitched you’re less than zero!

 

Lyrics by:

Mattia C., Lorenzo G, Elena J., Zoe M. S.

 

Problematization:

The term 'snitch' has lead us to reflect on concepts such as 'loyalty and 'trust' (to the group or to the people to whom one is linked), 'betrayal' (of friends and values), 'honesty' (towards oneself and others), 'honour' (the quality of those who possess principles appreciated by society or by the group they belong to and who obtain respect, but also, more simply, of those who remain faithful to the pacts, to the word given).  

In short texts, we reported experiences in which we were considered snitches, or we snitched someone, or witnessed episodes that led the peer group to assign this appellation to someone.  

Here are some of the reflections:

"'To cheat', at least for me, is a much worse verb than 'to snitch'", because, when you betray a person, it means that you do it voluntarily, not caring about the consequences and about the pain that someone else might feel" (A.A.)

"For me, trust is everything and I try to pass it on to others as well, thus making it clear that I am a reliable person. If I were in danger, for example in the event that a friend of mine did something really wrong, then I would talk to someone telling what happened (...). In this case if they called me ‘snitch’, I would take it as a compliment" (AI.A)

"All over the world, children and teenagers are left without a home and family (...). They often become part of small groups of guys with the same problems, and over time they will become real gangs. (...) [So, within these groups] if a person tells you personal facts that they wouldn't tell to others, it means that you have a certain importance in their life and you should be honoured" (Z.M.S.)

"Cheating to me is an unforgivable mistake. The moment you cheat, it's a bit like you're cheating on yourself too: you have broken a promise with yourself and with others, (...) you have decided to break the trust you have created with the other person or group" (E.J.)

"I believe that honesty is the basis of every interpersonal relationship, because you have to be correct towards yourself and towards all those who have entrusted us with their trust" (S.Q). 

"A positive sense of the term is when people are considered 'snitches' because they reported to the authorities after seeing a crime" (G.M)

"Sometimes one can betray for the good of someone, such as when a serious fact that has occurred to a minor is revealed to an adult who can thus be of help” (C.V)

"'Honesty' is telling the truth, even if it is difficult and uncomfortable; 'loyalty' is defending people dear to us even at the cost of lying to save them from negative consequences. In my opinion, a balance between the two values ​​is needed" (S.M.)

 "Being faithful means honour and respect, but unfortunately not everyone is loyal. I consider betrayal as a sin, a mistake without remedy, which marks the person you are forever, which identifies you as a 'traitor'"(A.F.)

"In my opinion, trying to put yourself in someone's else shoes helps a lot to respect values ​​such as honesty, loyalty, honour. Betraying someone, on the other hand, means trampling on their trust and at the same time lacking respect for this person; for me, no one deserves to be betrayed" (G.R.)

"Betrayal should be considered from all points of view because everyone has one and, therefore, a different version of the facts" (C.F.)

"There was time when some friends of mine backtalked about other people that I know so I reported these things: I 'snichted'. Obviously, by doing this, I backstabbed the group but I think that backtalk is as serious as snichting. (...) A snitch could have good intentions and help someone" (L.G.) 


"You can snitch for many reasons: anger, fear, evilness… for me it’s always little justifiable"(M.C.)

 

Communication strategies:

We have examined how the word 'snitch' is represented in movies and in the social media.

 

Films

  • Snitch (US, 2013; dir. R.R. Waugh), is based on the true  story of James Settembrino, a businessman who decides to infiltrate a criminal organization to exonerate his son, unjustly arrested for drugs.
     
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (UK, 2007; dir. D. Yates),  Draco Malfoy searches for evidence to accuse Harry of creating Dumbledore's Army. Later, Chi Chang, a member of the exercise, betrays his friends and confesses everything to professor Umbridge. The word isn't actually used in the film but we gave this interpretation to Chang's behaviour.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snitch_(film)

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGy-yfNAIOi/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

This image shows a tongue surrounded by barbed wire. We can read this picture as a threat or warning for those who behave as 'snitch'.
 

 

This image portrays 6ix9ine, AKA Tekashi 69 or Tekashi, a famous Nort-American rapper, and represents the poster of the cartoon Lilo and Stitch (US, 2002; dir. C. Sanders & De. DeBlois) but with the word 'snitch' and the face of the rapper in it.

Snoop Dogg posted this image on his instagram profile changing the name as Lilo & Snitch referring to the story of 6ix9ine, who was nicknamed 'snitch' because he passed from one gang to another, from Bloods to Crips. Bloods (the Reds) and the Crips (the Blues) were two rival street gangs of Los Angeles involved in criminal activities such as drug dealing and murdering. They are both active since 1970s.

https://www.sohh.com/snoop-dogg-trolls-6ix9ine-w-savage-disney-meme-lilo-snitch/

The two images are very different. 

The first image was made on the computer and it suggests silence but in a powerful, violent and direct way. It recalls the syle of the Pop Art

The second image is about 6ix9ine and represents the cartoon Lilo and Stitch, but with the word 'snitch' on his face. 

 

Twitter: snitch tagging

In English, 'dude' behaviour is defined as snitch tagging. It is a term formed by 'snitch' (spy) and 'tagging', which in the Twitter context means to include the @username identifier of a person who, thus tagged, will receive a notification from the system. 

Often snitch tagging consists of and replying to a tweet without making any comments but simply adding @username, usually that of a famous person: it can appear as a sly attempt to take advantage and visibility by using @username [5].

 

https://www.terminologiaetc.it/2019/09/19/
origine-significato-snitch-tagging-twitter/

 

Youtube

 

And here are some memes:

me running after I snitched

(meme by: Carlotta Fiammazzo. Elettra Fiammazzo, Martina Iacovone, Giulia Rosso)
when a snitch arrives at a party

(meme by: Carlotta Fiammazzo. Elettra Fiammazzo, Martina Iacovone, Giulia Rosso)

 


(meme by: Arianna Allora, Alisya Anastasio, Clara Traglia)

 

Subversion:

The subversion opened a discussion among us students.

The main questions were: can we creatively subvert the term 'snitch'? When can 'snitching' have a positive outcome? Under which circumstances?

The first example is in this rap written by us students where, in a peer relationship, the snitcher actually helps a friend in trouble.

 

Il bene nel male

Non ti piace niente

e poi vuoi fare tutto,

di ogni decisione 

pensi sempre il lato brutto.

Proprio in quei momenti

c'è chi ti tira su,

dandoti qualcosa 

per non pensarci più. 

Tu ti senti bella

e importante in un momento

e non ti accorgi che

ti stai solo mentendo.

Le amiche, quelle vere, 

tu le chiami infami,

ma è solo grazie a loro 

che poi tu ti ami.

Allora essere 'snitch'

non è una brutta roba,

se ti salva il c**o 

sopra ogni cosa

 

Testo di:

Anna C., Carlotta V., Beatrice V., 
Melissa M.

 

Good within Bad

You don’t like anything 

and then you want to do everything 

of every decision 

you always think about the bad side.

But precisely in those moments

there is someone who is helping you 

giving you something 

to make you forget about it all. 

You feel beautiful 

and important in a moment 

and you don’t realise 

that you are lying to yourself. 

Your true friends

you call them snitch 

but it is only thanks to them 

that you can love yourself 

So being snitch 

is not so bad 

if it saves your a** 

for everything 

 

Lyrics by: 

Anna C., Carlotta V., Beatrice V., 
Melissa M.

The second example is the cartoon below:

(cartoon made by: Giorgia Mostaccio, Laura Pesce, Sara Quattrocchi)

 

A final example is this creative/conceptual work where it reads that snitching becomes positive when it defies omerta (conspiracy of silence).

Here below are some of the phases of the work:

the materials 1
the materials 2
rolling the scroll
each scroll contains a text 
the scrolls from above
the final result

(photos by Arianna Allora, Agnese Favro, Martina Iacovone, Sara Sofia Malara, Chiara Uras)

 

This has been a collective, conceptual, and interactive work.

We reflected on the uses of the term 'snitch' and on the concepts of 'loyalty' (to the group or people one is attached to), 'betrayal' (to friends and values), 'honesty' (to oneself and others), and 'honour'.

We arranged the 21 elements (one for each of us in the class) by eye, using 1-cent coins as a guide for the placement of the scrolls where we wrote some reflections about the term ‘snitch’.

The project made it possible to conceive an elaboration from a concept. Besides being an opportunity for us for a reflection-through-action, it will incite new considerations to all those who, by approaching the work, will pick up a scroll, read it and ask themselves new questions about the judgmental term 'snitch' and, conversely, the value of counteracting omerta.

 

At the end of our collective discussions, reflections, and activities, we were asked to identify a word to summarize the path and the work we had done:

 

Though some strong negative view of the 'snitch' are still present ('infamous', 'betrayal', 'grave', etc.) the activities done in class have contributed to enlarge the perspective and offer more nuanced interpretation of 'snitching' ('change', 'trust', 'humanity', 'perspectives', 'points of view') as a situated move which depends on the context and the circumstances.

 

Discussion:

  • Had you ever heard the word 'snitch' before? In which occasions? In which contexts?
  • Have you ever used the word 'snitch'? In which occasions?
  • Has someone else ever used the word 'snitch' to offend or hurt you? In which occasion?
  • Have you ever witnessed (or done) something that you thought it had to be reported to a trusted adult to help someone in trouble or in danger?
  • According to you, are there any circumstances in which being a 'snitch' can have positive outocomes towards an individual or a community?

 

References/Further Readings:

Links:

[1] https://https.www.urbandictionary.com

[2] https://it.m.wikipedia.org [accessed March 13,2023]

[3]  https://sapere.virgilio.it [accessed March 13, 2023]

 [4] https://www.donnaglamour.it [accessed March 13, 2023]

[5] https://www.terminologiaetc.it/2019/09/19/origine-significato-snitch-tagging-twitter/ [accessed March 25]

 

How to cite this entry:

Class 1B. (2023). Snitch. In Other Words. A Contextualized Dictionary to Problematize Otherness. Published: 07 June 2023. [https://www.iowdictionary.org/word/snitch, accessed: 20 May 2024]