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I'd like to capture the spirit of the phrase "the Wild Wild West" in one word, if possible. For instance "As I stepped back outside, I was shocked to see everything change to --a scene much like the Wild Wild West---".

I would like to capture the feeling of chaos or frenzy, violence or danger, and lawlessness. What would you suggest?

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From dictionary.com...

bedlam - a scene or state of wild uproar and confusion.
(Archaic, an insane asylum or madhouse.)

  • This is super close to what I have in mond, I don't think it can get closer? – unclepete Aug 14 '14 at 19:07
  • I am selecting this, but I think the word I was looking for was "pandemonium", or something similar to "bedlam" that would describe a chaotic scenery like Hell – unclepete Aug 14 '14 at 20:13
  • Googling define bedlam pandemonium shows that each of those words frequently figures in definitions of the other. – FumbleFingers Aug 14 '14 at 20:24
  • Bedlam derives from the name of a London hospital so thinking of it as capturing “the spirit of the phrase "the Wild Wild West" in one word” is dumbfounding! – James Waldby - jwpat7 Aug 15 '14 at 13:14
  • @jwpat7: I assume OP is actually focussed on a feeling of chaos or frenzy, violence or danger, and lawlessness, and that the Wild West is just one possible metaphoric reference (which for some reason he doesn't want to use, or he wouldn't be asking for an alternative). – FumbleFingers Aug 15 '14 at 13:27
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A word that is sometimes associated with the wild, wild west is "untamed" since historically, the far western regions of the continental United States were the last to settle down and become a civilized society. It took time, people and resources to build up the frontier with cities, citizenry and infrastructure, so initially, it was a combination of intrepid adventurers and even people seeking to live in a place with fewer laws and societal constraints that helped create the reputation of the "wild, wild west".

"The Untamed West" is a book title of three short novels written by the most iconic names in western lore: Zane Gray, Max Brand and Louis L'Amour

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I think the word you want is "frontier. Placing it into your example sentence, "As I stepped back outside, I was shocked to see everything change to a frontier scene--one much like the Wild Wild West---"

  • This was my first thought too, but I'm not sure "frontier" necessarily has the same connotations of chaos, at least not when presented without modifiers. – Chris Sunami Aug 14 '14 at 17:47
  • I see your point, but it has those connotations for me. – brasshat Aug 14 '14 at 18:02
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As I stepped back outside, I was shocked to see a world descended into anarchy.

Anarchy literally means without government, and thus is a good match for the "lawlessness" portion of your request, and additionally has connotations of chaos, violence and danger.

  • I think this one fits pretty closely! – unclepete Aug 14 '14 at 19:07
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Consider a Dodge City shootout. Dodge City, KS is “famous in American culture for its history as a wild frontier town of the Old West” [wikipedia]. In the modern age, this image was reinforced by the 1939 film Dodge City. A review of that film at imdb.com says it inspired Mel Brook’s ‘Blazing Saddles’; you might also consider the phrase a Blazing Saddles shootout if that better fits your desired tone.

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