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Is there any significant difference in meaning between the following?

known to locals
(and)
known by locals

I'm tempted to say there isn't, and that they are interchangeable. Am I right?

Examples

  1. They may officially call it Mary's Restaurant, but for the past 40 years it's been known to locals as Mary's Country Kitchen. source

  2. Be careful in this corner of town, known to locals as the Bar-muda Triangle. Come evening, choose from Asian to haute cuisine. For such a wee town, Telluride has a dizzying array of dinnertime options. source

  3. In the vicinity of the Indasala Cave is a flight of stairs leading up to a cave known by locals as Guvha Mandir (do not mistake this cave to be the Indasala Cave). source

  4. Thirty years later, it was a journey so familiar that I failed to be entranced by the rebelliously fast water traffic and, beyond, the CBD skyline, all radiant and spiky, with buildings topped by spires so thrusting they are variously known by locals as the Chopsticks and the Hypodermic. source

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This is really a matter of style. There may be a slight difference, but it would be one of emphasis or perspective. That is, are you speaking from the point of view of the locals or the restaurant?

The first,

Mary's Restaurant, known to locals as ...

puts the emphasis on the restaurant, while

Mary's Restaurant, known by locals as ...

shifts the perspective somewhat to that of the locals.

The difference is not spacious, but one could use the latter to set up a following discourse, especially in writing. The restaurant is always still the subject, but the latter would be a bit more appropriate, perhaps, when one wishes to focus in on the relationship of the locals to the restaurant. Example:

Mary's Restaurant, known by locals as Mary's Country Kitchen, has served the tristate area for decades. Its patrons tend to be fanatics who like the eclectic menu and generous portions. When the restaurant teetered on the verge of bankruptcy a dozen years ago, the populace banded together to support it and increase their patronage. One group, calling themselves Mary's Army, pledged to take a meal a day there—breakfast, lunch, or dinner—for an entire month.

Again, realize that using to in that paragraph would still be perfectly acceptable. It is really only a matter of style.

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