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paddle (one's) own canoe

To act independently. Now that you're 30, people expect you to paddle your own canoe—you can't just live with your parents forever.
See also: canoe, own, paddle
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

paddle one's own canoe

Fig. to do something by oneself; to be alone. I've been left to paddle my own canoe too many times. Sally isn't with us. She's off paddling her own canoe.
See also: canoe, own, paddle
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

paddle one's own canoe

Be independent and self-reliant, as in It's time Bill learned to paddle his own canoe. This idiom alludes to steering one's own boat. [c. 1800]
See also: canoe, own, paddle
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

paddle your own canoe

If you paddle your own canoe, you control what you want to do without anyone's help or interference. With no one managing him, he was basically left to paddle his own canoe. As far as the rest of Europe is concerned we've just got to paddle our own canoe.
See also: canoe, own, paddle
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

paddle your own canoe

be independent and self-sufficient. informal
This expression has been in figurative use from the early 19th century: it was the title of a popular song by Sarah T. Bolton in 1854 .
See also: canoe, own, paddle
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

paddle one's own canoe, to

To be independent and self-reliant. The analogy to steering one’s boat is very old indeed; Euripides drew it in his play Cyclops (ca. 440 b.c.). Canoes being largely a Western Hemisphere conveyance, this particular version of the term is American in origin. It dates from about 1800. An early appearance in print occurs in Frederick Marryat’s Settlers in Canada (1840). A few years later Harper’s Monthly (May 1854) published the following ditty: “Voyager upon life’s sea, to yourself be true, And whate’er your lot may be, paddle your own canoe.” It became a popular music-hall song.
See also: own, paddle
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in classic literature ?
Kaviri's own canoe went in advance of the others a short distance, and as it rounded a sharp bend in the river where the swift current bore it rapidly on its way it came suddenly upon the thing that Kaviri sought.
Scarcely had the two craft come together than the frightful apes of Akut rose, growling and barking, from the bottom of the canoe, and, with long, hairy arms far outstretched, grasped the menacing spears from the hands of Kaviri's warriors.
The leading canoe, in the bow of which he stood, was yet a hundred yards behind the fleeing Meriem when she ran the point of her craft beneath the overhanging trees on the shore of safety.
His misses at so short a distance were practically non-existent, nor would he have missed this time but for an accident occurring at the very instant that his finger tightened upon the trigger--an accident to which Meriem owed her life--the providential presence of a water-logged tree trunk, one end of which was embedded in the mud of the river bottom and the other end of which floated just beneath the surface where the prow of Malbihn's canoe ran upon it as he fired.
The plan, therefore, was to travel by canoes during the less heated parts of the day, and tie up at night, making camp on shore in the net- protected tents.
Then, as the afternoon shadows were waning, the party again took to the canoes and paddled on up the river.
Throwing a last and lingering glance at the distant canoes, he laid aside his rifle, and, relieving the wearied Duncan, resumed the paddle, which he wielded with sinews that never tired.
Shove in the canoe nigher to the land, Uncas; this sand will take a stamp as easily as the butter of the Jarmans on the Mohawk.
Each village forms a petty sovereignty, governed by its own chief, who, however, possesses but little authority, unless he be a man of wealth and substance; that is to say, possessed of canoe, slaves, and wives.
They were resolute, however, and launched their boat, while the wary chieftain followed at some short distance in his canoe. Scarce had they rowed a mile, when a wave broke over their boat and upset it.
We who were not killed got away in canoes and paddled out into the lagoon.
Marmaduke appeared to understand that all opposition to the will of the sheriff would he useless, and he strolled from the fire to the place where the canoe of the hunters lay, whither the ladies and Oliver Edwards had already preceded him.
Generations and centuries passed, and, behold, in place of naked sandbanks half awash were walled citadels, perforated with launching-ways for the long canoes, protected against the mainland by the lagoons that were to them their narrow seas.
The gang-plank being on the port side, Dag Daughtry paddled around to the starboard and brought the canoe to a stop under a certain open port.
It was about dark now; so I dropped the canoe down the river under some willows that hung over the bank, and waited for the moon to rise.