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Tommy is in a fight with a man, ending with Tommy knocking him out. He then flees out of the restroom and collides with a security guard, who's heard the turmoil.

I don't which word I can use here? Does "turmoil" work perfectly? (I have consulted a dictionary, but I'm still not sure)

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  • May be fuss, I don't know for sure – CrazyElf Jan 29 at 17:37
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Try "ruckus" or "hubbub" or "commotion" (depending on whether a casual tone is permissible) - turmoil has a more serious connotation

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I'd like to hope this answer will be useful for many other similar questions. Here's how I went about putting it together...

1: Google synonym turmoil
2: Compare the relative frequency of several of the synonyms returned...
...run Google NGrams on... turmoil,confusion,upheaval,turbulence,tumult,disorder,commotion
3: Select some synonyms that are at least as common as the original target turmoil
4: Run NGram to compare some common short phrase, such as heard the XXX
(using several search texts with different values for XXX, as selected from the first NGram)
5: Pat yourself on the back if you get a "clear winner"...

enter image description here

I can't "explain" why commotion has such strong associations with sound / noise - but even though I as a native speaker fully expected that result, it seems to me anyone else could follow my "recipe" above and reach the same conclusion with just as much confidence as I would have had even without the chart.

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  • The only quibble I'd have is with the use of "turmoil" as the root - I'd have started with "fight", which would give you brawl, fracas, melee, row, rumpus, confrontation, skirmish, exchange, struggle, tussle, scuffle & altercation to compare, although not the one that came to my mind - "disturbance". I've not posted as a separate answer, as I've no issue with the rest of it. – Gwyn Evans Jan 29 at 18:48
  • It seems to me that turmoil refers to the fact of the fight rather than the noise made by it. – Kate Bunting Jan 30 at 9:24
  • @GwynEvans: But I think I had to start with "turmoil", specifically because that was OP's initial candidate word. It's also relevant that as a native speaker (and one with a particular interest in this sort of thing) I was already pretty sure what I would get from an NGram for heard the * and came. A link to that NGram is too long to fit into a comment, but commotion comes way out front on that one (followed by noise, news, sound,...). But I couldn't just arbitrarily include the clinching and came [running] in my example, because a learner couldn't "copy" that. – FumbleFingers Jan 30 at 13:00

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