This paper studies the claim ma ei tea, lit. I not know, often pronounced as maitea in Estonian conversation. In contrast to earlier findings on I dont know as an epistemic hedge and non-answer (based on, among others, English data) the current study shows that maitea accomplishes a specific non-epistemic function in Estonian conversation, as a means of recovering from dead ends in real time. It is deployed for abandoning units-in-progress and discarding stalled topical sequences, and then contingently launching new ones. The paper demonstrates how the meaning of maitea emerges differently in sequential contexts where displays of knowledge have been made relevant, as opposed to when they have not, and thus contributes to the theoretical understanding of meaning as a situated achievement, in particular when it comes to ephemeral cognitive concepts such as "knowing". (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.