what some single-letter option meant.  I pretty much never use them on
the command line, though.

Agreed, the long options *as an alternative* can be descriptive in scripts,
tutorials, howto's etc.
The other reason often mentioned, there being not enough letters in the
alphabet to cover all possible options, in my opinion advocates bloated
software (one program can do it all), which goes against the Unix paradigm
of making small programs that do one task exceptionally well and just
chaining these together.
you exaggerate a bit.

for example rsync does have >26 options but most make sense for program that is dedicated to one task, and it isn't against Unix paradigm.

But it have one letter shortcuts for mostly used parameters
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