throw one a bone.
1. Placate someone, a minor benevolence. Variations are: toss him/her a bone or give him/her a bone to chew on.
Just how minor the benevolence is a matter of context. In chiding President George W. Bush for his commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence, columnist Frank Rich characterized it as “throw[ing] a bone to the last grumpy old white guys watching Bill O’Reilly in a bunker.” Compared to the conservative ascendance that Karl Rove had predicted but which never arrived, this act was indeed a consolation prize at best.
2. Give someone something inconsequential to keep them occupied.
The condescension is clear. It is a metaphor that both casts the bone chewer not only as a non-person but also as likely to be grateful for the non-opportunity, since chewing on a bone is, by its nature, not terribly nutritious. Just as humans may give a dog a bone to keep it busy, tossing a bone is implicitly the giving of busy work; providing a labor of inconsequential nature. The distinction is clear when, in 2001, NBA star Jason Kidd praised center Todd MacCulloch who had joined him on the Nets: “He's got great hands and it makes the game so much easier when you
can trust the big guy, not just throw him a bone but rely on him.”
1. Rich, Frank. 2007. A Profile in Cowardice. New York Times, Jul 8. Accessed Apr 18 2008 from http:// select.nytimes.com/ 2007/ 07/ 08/ opinion/08rich.html.
2. Robbins, Liz. 2001. Qualified Praise from Kidd. New York Times, Oct 26. Accessed Apr 22 2008 from http:// query.nytimes.com/ gst/ fullpage.html? res= 9F03E1D71031F935 A15753C1A9679C8B63.