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There was the phrase “He is not a man about town” in the article of Time magazine May14 – 20 issue, titled “Brazil’s War on Big Oil,” reporting the oil-spill accident which took place in the sea 230 miles away the northwest of Rio de Janeiro on November 7 last year.

The article introduces the background of Gorge Buck, President of Chevron’s Brazil subsidiary who was accused of his and his company’s responsibility for the accident by Brazilian federal prosecutor as follows:

“He is 6-foot-5, slender, soft-spoken, and earnest to the point of social awkwardness. - - He lives with his family in Rio’s fashionable Ipanema beach district. He is not a man about town.”

As I am unfamiliar with the usage of “about a place,” I consulted OALD at hand. There were so many definitions of “about” as a preposition, adverb and adjective, but it seemed to me that only the definition 6. among them – “(Especially BrE.) able to be found in a place” as an adverb is somewhere near to the phrase, “a man about town” used here.

What does “He is not a man about town” exactly mean? Don’t we need “the” before “town,” if we are refering to Rio?

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The key phrase is man about town, referring to an urban sophisticate. The author is saying that Buck is not the sort of man who attends exclusive parties or patronizes fashionable clubs or restaurants, but one who lives quietly.

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